Cancer, fire and environmental services to be impacted by Brexit

LGMA conference hears of potential cross-Border ‘human impacts’ for Ireland

Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry Photograph: Google Maps

Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry Photograph: Google Maps

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Cancer services at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, Fire Service of Northern Ireland emergency assistance at fires in Donegal and Leitrim, and educational cooperation among regional colleges in the northwest, were likely to be among the “human impacts” of Brexit, a local government conference has been told.

The Local Government Management Association (LGMA) conference on Brexit also heard there was uncertainty about the future protection of lakes and rivers, as well as river basin management.

Dan O’Brien chief economist with the Institute of International and European Affairs told the conference Ireland could be more adversely affected by Brexit than Britain.

Opening the conference, chairwoman of the LGMA, Jackie Maguire, said Brexit would impact on agriculture, tourism and business, but also on rivers on both sides of the Border which were currently managed under the EU Water Framework Directive.

She said post-Brexit, the UK would not be bound by the EU Water Framework Directive and this created uncertainty about how trans-boundary environmental issues would be managed across the island when different standards could be in place.

Ms Maguire, who is also chief executive of Meath County Council, instanced the fire services on both sides of the Border where she said there was routine cooperation.

As a former public servant in Leitrim for seven years, she was aware of cross border assistance from the Fire Service of Northern Ireland and this was also an issue in Donegal, she said.

Opportunities

However, she said while Brexit would undoubtedly impact on agriculture and tourism it may also offer “opportunities” and these included the fact that Ireland would be the only company within the EU that was English speaking, after Britain leaves.

This could provide advantages in attracting English speaking foreign direct investment which was aimed at the EU Market she said.

Séamus Neely chief executive of Donegal County Council said different parts of the Irish economy were affected by challenges or opportunities. He said the “northwest city region”, centred around Letterkenny, Derry and Strabane was a region of 350,000 people with “a border running down the middle of it”.

“Just think about the City of Glasgow with a line running down the middle of it, with different structures running different ways,” he said.

Mr Neely referred to cancer services at Altnagelvin Hospital, accessed by people in the Republic’s northwest which meant people currently did not have to go to Dublin or Galway.

In addition, many people in education lived on “one or the other side of this line” and there was concern about some teachers’ residence status post Brexit, as well as the transferability of educational awards in the future.

Challenges

Mr Neely said a 2015 scoping study on economic co-operation between the local authorities on economic issues had found the three Border crossings at Lifford/Strabane; Bridgeend/Derry and Muff represented 58 per cent of the cross-Border traffic between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

He said the local authority and others had to ensure that confidence and economic activity continued.

“We need to look at those challenges, telling ourselves we can manage it, while keeping one eye on the opportunities,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said the German, French and Italian economies were not very vulnerable to Brexit. He said it had been expected that the Germans would be very concerned about the one million cars it sold to Britain each year and the Italians would be very concerned about sales of Prosecco, but in fact, trades amounted to very small amounts of the overall German and Italian economies.

“The economic impact of Brexit for Ireland could possibly be worse for us than the UK,” he said.

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