Hard Brexit would hit 142 Irish cross-border agreements

Posted By: November 29, 2017

From heart surgery to special needs education to mobile phone charges, an EC and UK study has compiled a list of activities that will be hit

Lisa O’Carroll. Brexit correspondent. The Guardian. London. Monday, November 27, 2017

A confidential study conducted by the UK government and the European Commission has listed 142 cross-border activities on the island of Ireland that would be negatively impacted by a hard Brexit.

They include heart surgery in Dublin for children from Northern Ireland as well as the cancer treatment in Derry for people from the Republic because of patients, clinicians and ambulances are free to move across the border without checks.

Also listed as at risk are existing cross-border agreements on mobile phone roaming, which enable commuters, tourists and business travelers to enjoy charges restricted to local rates across the entire island.

Eoin Magennis, a senior economist in the Economic Policy Centre at Ulster University, said: “It’s an important list because it shows the depth of cooperation that people aren’t aware of that has developed since 1999-2000 and it’s going to be hard to unpick all of that.”

The list was based on work initiated by the UK government in August after a request from Brussels to help negotiators on both sides understand what the impact on citizens would be, amid concerns that a position paper published by the British focused solely on trade, and ignored, for example, aspects of the Good Friday peace agreement.

“We are now working with the European Commission on an ongoing mapping project to make sure we have a full understanding of what is involved,” said a source familiar with the exercise.

Other agreements cited as on the 142 at-risk activities include special needs education allowing autistic children to get support across the border. There are worries too about how to deal with cross-border relationship breakdowns if the legal situation becomes more complex after Brexit.

There are also joint initiatives on shared waterways, access to medicine, and agreement to treat the entire island as one epidemiological entity for the purpose of animal diseases helping limit the spread of foot and mouth or tuberculosis.

Anthony Soares, deputy director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh, said he was concerned for the loss of subtle social cohesion in sports and cultural activities. “There may be peace but there is not full reconciliation. But we are on the right road and there are whole areas of connections in communities that now exist that are not visible and Brexit is threatening that.

“Brexit might not mean they will stop, but it will mean they are paused while people work out what Brexit means and that will put things back years.”

Joint health services, for example, allow patients to get medicine at any pharmacy north or south of the border, irrespective of the location of the GP responsible for the prescription. Ambulances on either side of the border are currently free to travel across the border to attend emergencies such as road traffic accidents and cardiac arrests.

They allow for people across the island to receive radiotherapy at a new £50m center for cancer patients on both sides of the border at Altnagelvin hospital in Derry which opened a year ago.

Bernie McCrory, the chief officer of Cooperation and Working Together (CAWT), said: “In the past, we would have had young mothers who would have declined to go to Dublin because of the time away from their children and they would have opted for radical surgery instead. At Altnagelvin we have created a pathway for patients that didn’t exist before.”