Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid Response:

Re: Assessing the health effects of a “no deal” Brexit


I have seen various rapid responses all castigating the BMJ for publishing a series of opinion blogs, editorials or well referenced long-form articles setting out the potential risks of Brexit for healthcare, population and public health, medical research, recruitment and retention in the UK - yet failing to publish counter arguments by people supporting "Leave".

It is one thing arguing for journalistic, academic or editorial balance and impartiality. But this is not the same as giving "false equivalence" between a considerable body of expertise and data on the one hand and poorly evidenced ideology on the other.

Clear examples in other fields might include the debate over climate change science, or the impact of socioeconomic inequality on health, or the benefit v risk equation of vaccination programmes or alternative/homeopathic medical therapies. In all cases there is a large body of evidence and expertise and scientific consensus on one side and far less credible evidence on the other. One would not want to see equal weight given to belief, ideology or propaganda.

WIth regard to the various detailed civil service risk assessments and academic critiques of the risks of Brexit, it strikes me that there is a a paucity of credible expert information in favour of Brexit and its benefits for our health and care systems, biomedical research, population health. Who could the BMJ find to set out a compelling well evidenced, well referenced case for the benefits of leaving the EU? I suspect it would be a struggle

Nonetheless, all the rapid responses arguing for balance (or in effect "false equivalence") have been published. Let's see one that goes, line by line through the various blogs, editorials and papers and bothers to dispute or challenge the concrete evidence set out. I think it would be a Herculean task and so, in all probability, would dealing with the fall out from leaving the EU with no deal

David Oliver

Competing interests: No competing interests

12 September 2019
David Oliver
Consultant Physician