Statement on Brexit by the President of the European Academy of Nursing Science

Friday 24th June 2016

Dear Members of EANS

You will no doubt have been reflecting on the recent events in Europe around the UK voting to leave the European Union. Some of you have contacted me already asking about the implications of this for the European Academy of Nursing Science.

My first point is to remind you that our Academy has never been defined only by the 28 countries that make up the EU. Our country membership criterion has always been determined by the Council of Europe, whose definition of Europe extends to 47 countries. For example, our many Norwegian and Swiss members do not belong to the EU. It is geography, not political structures that defines the Europe of EANS. The UK leaving the EU has no implications for UK members of EANS and UK nurses will have every right to continue to play a full role in the scientific life of our academy, alongside those from the other 46 European countries.

In terms of the Brexit decision itself, the mood in most UK science and academic departments on Friday morning last week ranged from depression and despair to anger and horror. Universities in the UK campaigned to remain in the EU. Although they may exist, I personally know of no UK nurse scientists who wanted to leave the EU. The vote was extremely close, and it is worth remembering that over 48% of the UK population who voted, chose to remain. It is a myth that Britain voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU. The young, the educated and the urbanised voted to stay.

At this point, we should remember the values that EANS stands for. Nurse scientists from many different European countries founded EANS in the 1990s. Our aim then was the same as it is now: to provide European nurse scientists with an opportunity to develop a European context to their work. Since we were founded, EANS has simultaneously encouraged collaboration and celebrated diversity. When we meet with each other, when we teach on our summer schools, we respect the life enriching differences of our European nations whilst at the same time collaborating with colleagues to address the great issues facing health care and nursing across Europe. The UK leaving the EU does not change these principles. Nor does it make those problems go away.

Brexit, therefore, represents the most acute current example of why EANS is so important to Europe, nursing and nursing science. It is one of the very many multinational organisations that exist explicitly to encourage cooperation throughout Europe. At this time of European uncertainty and potential instability it is even more vital than ever that organisations such as ours encourage both respect for our continental diversity and collaboration between our peoples. As members of EANS we must work harder than ever to resist the pressure to look inwards, not outwards. We should be proud of what we have achieved in EANS and prouder still of what we might do in the future. Our work is vital.

I will leave you with a quote from an inspiring UK woman, Jo Cox, recently assassinated for her beliefs by the intolerance stalking Europe at the moment.

“We have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”

Best wishes

Dave Richards

President, European Academy of Nursing Science

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