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The German elections weren't a protest against Angela Merkel's refugee policy

Far from rejecting the Chancellor's stance, most voters backed candidates who support it. 

After the German state election results were released last night, the British press swiftly presented them as a protest against Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy. "Crushing verdict on open-door migration," declared the Mail's front page. "Voters send Merkel tough message over 'open door' refugee policy" was the Telegraph's verdict. "Merkel left wounded as Germans turn right" reported the Times

But even the most cursory analysis discredits this interpretation. The right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which has led the opposition to Merkel's refugee policy (under which Germany has accepted 1.1 million asylum seekers), did indeed surge, finishing second in Saxony-Anhalt with 24.2 per cent of the vote and third in Baden-Württemberg (15.1 per cent) and Rhineland-Palatinate (12.6 per cent) - a startling performance by a party founded only three years ago. But this was merely a feature of the elections. 

Far from punishing Merkel for her refugee policy, German voters returned supporters of it. In Baden-Württemberg, the pro-migrant Greens finished first with an increased vote share (24.1 per cent to 30.3 per cent). The party's regional leader Winfried Kretschmann backed Merkel to the point of declaring that he was "praying" for her "health and well-being". In Rhineland-Palatinate, Christian Democratic candidate Julia Klöckner, who challenged Merkel's stance (and was spoken of as a possible successor), was defeated by the incumbent and pro-refugee SPD. In Saxony-Anhalt, where AfD performed best, it was the social democrats and the leftist Die Linke, rather than the CDU, who were punished most (evidence of the left's continuing malaise). After losing just 2.7 per cent of its vote, Merkel's party finished first. 

Nor is there evidence that pro-refugee candidates won in spite of their stance. In two states, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, voters backed Merkel's position by 25 and 15 points, while in Saxony-Anhalt they opposed it by just five. Though AfD's rise is evidence of a discontented minority, the majority supported parties which endorse the government's stance. The elections were a "verdict" on Merkel's policy - but not the one the press would have you believe. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Brexit could destroy our NHS – and it would be the government's own fault

Without EU citizens, the health service will be short of 20,000 nurses in a decade.

Aneurin Bevan once said: "Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community."

And so, in 1948, the National Health Service was established. But today, the service itself seems to be on life support and stumbling towards a final and fatal collapse.

It is no secret that for years the NHS has been neglected and underfunded by the government. But Brexit is doing the NHS no favours either.

In addition to the promise of £350m to our NHS every week, Brexit campaigners shamefully portrayed immigrants, in many ways, as as a burden. This is quite simply not the case, as statistics have shown how Britain has benefited quite significantly from mass EU migration. The NHS, again, profited from large swathes of European recruitment.

We are already suffering an overwhelming downturn in staffing applications from EU/EAA countries due to the uncertainty that Brexit is already causing. If the migration of nurses from EEA countries stopped completely, the Department of Health predicts the UK would have a shortage of 20,000 nurses by 2025/26. Some hospitals have significantly larger numbers of EU workers than others, such as Royal Brompton in London, where one in five workers is from the EU/EAA. How will this be accounted for? 

Britain’s solid pharmaceutical industry – which plays an integral part in the NHS and our everyday lives – is also at risk from Brexit.

London is the current home of the highly prized EU regulatory body, the European Medicine Agency, which was won by John Major in 1994 after the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty.

The EMA is tasked with ensuring that all medicines available on the EU market are safe, effective and of high quality. The UK’s relationship with the EMA is unquestionably vital to the functioning of the NHS.

As well as delivering 900 highly skilled jobs of its own, the EMA is associated with 1,299 QPPV’s (qualified person for pharmacovigilance). Various subcontractors, research organisations and drug companies have settled in London to be close to the regulatory process.

The government may not be able to prevent the removal of the EMA, but it is entirely in its power to retain EU medical staff. 

Yet Theresa May has failed to reassure EU citizens, with her offer to them falling short of continuation of rights. Is it any wonder that 47 per cent of highly skilled workers from the EU are considering leaving the UK in the next five years?

During the election, May failed to declare how she plans to increase the number of future homegrown nurses or how she will protect our current brilliant crop of European nurses – amounting to around 30,000 roles.

A compromise in the form of an EFTA arrangement would lessen the damage Brexit is going to cause to every single facet of our NHS. Yet the government's rhetoric going into the election was "no deal is better than a bad deal". 

Whatever is negotiated with the EU over the coming years, the NHS faces an uncertain and perilous future. The government needs to act now, before the larger inevitable disruptions of Brexit kick in, if it is to restore stability and efficiency to the health service.

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