Brexit and foreign doctors (parking fines and other things)

David McNarry’s latest foray into controversy has been to float – and then retract the suggestion that foreign workers (specifically a hypothetical Polish surgeon) be deported for minor crimes such as parking tickets.

Although this may play well with a few it seems something of a gaffe: maybe UKIP’s leadership will not be too sorry to lose their sole NI MLA when McNarry stands down at the Assembly elections (to be fair retiring at 67 seems pretty reasonable). It also demonstrates one of the problems with Nolan’s shows and his interviewing style. I remember a DUP politician refusing to go on the show with some sort of line to the effect he wanted to go on a politics show not a comedy show.

McNarry’s point, however, is the exact opposite of a legitimate point to be made by Brexit supporters: namely the fact that by no means all people with heritage from abroad support the UK remaining in the EU.

One overarching point which is often made but bears repeating is that the UK has always been a nation or indeed nations made up of immigrants. Be they the Celts, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans etc. of the Dark Ages or the more modern Huguenots right up to the Poles, Czechs and others who fled fascism and then so heroically defended their adoptive nation most iconically in its skies.

Since the war we have had waves of immigration from what was once the Empire and became the Commonwealth. Although that has been far from perfect in terms of integration we now have people of Afro Caribbean and South Asian heritage at every level of British society. The failure of integration has been a problem for many but looking at the rest of Europe it is not possible to single out the UK as having more of a race or racism problem than most other countries. Indeed arguably the situation is less bad here.

Coming back specifically to migrants and even more specifically to doctors raises an issue which should be seized on by Brexit campaigners though for different reasons to David McNarry’s.

There is not a hospital in Northern Ireland nor the rest of the UK which does not have doctors from abroad often in very senior positions. The majority of hospital departments in the UK have consultants from outside the UK and especially from South Asia. In many ways going to the UK was historically a right of passage for South Asian doctors. In both India and Pakistan medical education is conducted through the medium of English; the structure of junior doctors and consultants mirrors that of the UK and historically passing the assorted UK postgraduate examinations has been extremely beneficial for doctors in advancing their careers.

In the past the NHS also benefited from doctors from the likes of Australia and New Zealand but with the changes in medical practice and great superiority of terms and conditions for doctors in both those countries as opposed to the UK the flow is now almost entirely in the other direction. Indeed there is also an increasing trend for some Indian consultants to go home as that country, now far richer than it was a generation ago, offers many openings to practice state of the art medicine again with better terms and conditions than the UK.

Despite this there remain large numbers of South Asian doctors (though now more from Pakistan than India) keen to come to the UK. A series of obstacles, however, are set in their paths that make their position less favourable than for doctors trained in non UK EU member states.

Firstly there is the fact that despite all medical training occurring in India and Pakistan through the medium of English, non EU doctors have to pass exams in English for which they must pay. Prior to 2014 there was no specific requirement for doctors from EU states to demonstrate proficiency in English (it was only assessed at interview) and indeed since 2014 when the rules were introduced almost half of doctors applying from EU states have not been deemed competent enough to be allowed to practice.

A further problem is the arcane visa requirements: indeed it was an anecdote on this subject which started my thinking on this issue long before Mr. McNarry’s intervention and is maybe worth repeating.

A doctor acquaintance of mine is a Pakistani doctor has for a number years been a hospital doctor. He was a “Speciality Doctor” which is a sub consultant grade from which training to become a consultant is apparently difficult. He is, however, talented and hard working. He applied for and gained admission to the training scheme (becoming a specialist registrar and likely in time a consultant). This has necessitated a change in his visa status and the new visa is going to cost him several thousand pounds. This is an individual who has worked for the NHS and paid taxes for many years and yet now has to pay what amounts to a further tax due to his being promoted.

Such a situation does not affect any EU citizen and creates what for many foreign workers is seen as an unfairness even a form of racism.

Although the argument above is about doctors it could apply to many different jobs. The opening up of the labour market to EU citizens especially from the poorer countries in Europe has created a huge draw to immigration to the UK (Northern Ireland has seen less of this than many areas – most especially the East of England). The rise in the population has created a significant backlash and the government has sought to decrease immigration. That decrease has, however, not been allowed to be a decrease in migration from EU countries (by EU laws) and as such the pressure to reduce immigration has been most acute on non EU migrants. This can often impact on non EU persons with family ties to the UK who cannot come over as other members of their families (extended or otherwise) have in the past. As such the complaints about EU migration have had the effect of reducing not EU but non EU migration.

Many communities in the UK are aware of this and a small number of people from ethnic minorities have joined UKIP and such like. However, there is a potentially much bigger constituency of people from Afro Caribbean, South Asian or other non EU “minority” groups who are wholly British, have been for some time and now see people in a similar position to them or their ancestors being treated in a fashion which could very easily be seen as racist in fact even if not in theory.

Highlighting the benefits of Brexit to these groups would have a number of advantages. Firstly in what may be a tight referendum every vote counts. Furthermore a focus on this detracts from one of the standard Remain arguments that those supporting leaving the EU are “little Englanders” or more bluntly racists. Brian Walker has recently identified a nostalgia for the Commonwealth as one of the drivers of Brexit. That may be so but those originally from “Commonwealth” countries who in both current and past generations have helped massively enrich the UK materially, culturally and in so many other ways deserve to be recognised. As indeed do those from other countries be they EU or non EU who wish to enrich our society.

The jibe against Brexiters of “Little Englander” may have validity for some. However one can equally turn it round and describe those pro EU as being “Little Europers” (indeed little partial Europers as they forget half of Russia is in Europe and indeed Europe’s biggest country is Russia) nostalgic for a past when European nations ruled most of the world and unwilling to accept the new order. No group is better placed to make that point than those who’s parents are from outwith the EU but have become as British as any of the rest of us: no matter what the racists of both pro or anti EU camps, or it seems some in the European elite think.

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  • Msiegnaro

    I am no fan of David McNarry, he is a difficult and very troublesome individual.

    I felt in yesterday’s interview with Nolan he was clearly trolling, for what reason I’m unsure but he was definitely trolling, there is no way these were his genuine views.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Those who think that they can exchange their sovereignty for some sort of security or wealth will certainly end up with none of them.

  • mac tire

    I think what you are saying is that the views he expressed are so unbelievable that an elected rep who would publicly answer in this way had to be trolling.

    McNarry had every opportunity to say to Nolan at the start of that line of questioning: “Look here, Nolan, stop being so ridiculous. That is not what I am saying…”
    In fact, since he is not a nameless troll but an elected rep, it was incumbent upon him to be serious about these potentially sensitive issues.

    But he didn’t even do that. No, McNarry was deadly serious but realised his mistake when Nolan started pointing out how incredulous the answers were – and especially when Nolan fell silent (now, friends, how often has THAT happened).
    He then tried to row back but it was too late. No doubt most of those listening did not hear the about turn as they were still shocked and awed by his initial comments.

  • Brendan Heading

    The amusing part is that (AFAIK) parking is, since about 6 years ago, a civil offence rather than a criminal one. So McNarry went off about something that isn’t even a crime in the first place.

  • Slater

    Perhaps Turgon can explain why we limit the number of medical school places in the UK when so many foreign trained doctors are recruited every year? And these are not cheap labour jobs either.
    In truth, some 10% of working people here are now immigrants so the absorption has been amazingly well done but nobody remarks on that achievement.
    Self-hatred or the liberal terror?

  • notimetoshine

    “The opening up of the labour market to EU citizens especially from the poorer countries in Europe has created a huge draw to immigration to the UK (Northern Ireland has seen less of this than many areas – most especially the East of England). The rise in the population has created a significant backlash and the government has sought to decrease immigration”

    Many of the concerns regarding immigration in the UK (some valid some not so valid) are about culture, religion and integration, especially around muslim communities. One only has to look at the Bible of anti immigration the daily mail. European immigration and commonwealth immigration are too very different animals, one primarily economic the other a concern about clashing cultures.

    Of course the newest immigrants will always clash to a certain extent with the one who came before, tensions in American East coast cities during the early 20th century between older and newer immigrants are a perfect example.

    Though frankly I can’t see a situation where a brexit occurs and suddenly the country is open to more immigration from the likes of South Asia. Considering their form, UKIP types are even less amenable to those likely to immigrate to the UK from former colonies.

  • Sherdy

    UK medical schools and medical training cost the UK exchequer, whereas foreign trained doctors are productive from their first day in post.
    Follow the money!

  • Sherdy

    I thought the clincher was McNarry’s: ‘We have to claim our country back’!

  • ted hagan

    What a lot of hogwash this article is. Northern Ireland hasn’t had ‘waves of immigrants’, more’s the pity. Various acts were created after World War Two that forbade most overseas immigrants from entering the country, unlike in Britain, except under very special conditions, such as a special work permit. You see little old unionist Northern Ireland was afraid too many arrivals from the 26 counties might just tip the balance in the nationalists’ favour. I grew up in a Northern Ireland where it was very rare to come across people of different creeds, colours and nationalities, except the predictable ones. A narrow, narrow self-righteous little state. As for David McNarry. The guy shouldn’t be allowed out. He’s an embarrassment.

  • ted hagan

    He sounded like a guy who was miffed because Nolan had seen through his flimsy ‘mother and apple pie’ manifesto and was behaving like a petulant child. He’s well past it and should bow out. If that’s the best UKIP can put forward well then dear help them.

  • ted hagan

    I think at heart he’s probably a decent guy but there seems to an element of sheer sourness and spite at work, perhaps due to thwarted ambitions. He’s right to bow out, for all our sakes.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘Such a situation does not affect any EU citizen and creates what for many foreign workers is seen as an unfairness even a form of racism.’

    How? You’ve floated the suggestion but you don’t appear to have explained how this is considered racist.

    ‘However, there is a potentially much bigger constituency of people from Afro Caribbean, South Asian or other non EU “minority” groups who are wholly British, have been for some time and now see people in a similar position to them or their ancestors being treated in a fashion which could very easily be seen as racist in fact even if not in theory.’

    Again, how is it racist?

    I do believe you’re conflating the EU’s market for labour with the UK’s policies on immigration from outside the EU. Happy for you to point out where I’m mistaken.

    Thanks,

  • William Anderson

    The ‘parking offence’ was a bad example. What is far more common is for foreign people to unwittingly trespass over private property (such as golf courses) as they just don’t know any better. In the UKIP scenario would these people, who are mostly law-abiding, also be due for deportation?

  • William Anderson

    What this discussion hasn’t touched on is the blatant double standards which exist in the legal system towards foreigners. I know of several Europeans who have had their licence revoked for a minor offence, even though they had previously an unblemished record. Meanwhile there are a number of cases where our own local drivers have killed or seriously injured someone and have merely been given a slap on the wrist. One glaring example is the recent case outside Armagh where a young jogger was knocked down by a 17 year old unlicensed driver.

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