Belfast Telegraph

Extent of Irish north-south cooperation revealed in secret Brexit impact 'mapping exercise' report

The Irish border has been the main sticking point in the EU Brexit talks. (Niall Carson/PA)
The Irish border has been the main sticking point in the EU Brexit talks. (Niall Carson/PA)
The DUP’s MEP Diane Dodds (Niall Carson/PA)

A previously confidential government report detailing 142 areas of life in Northern Ireland that will be impacted by Brexit has finally been published.

The study, published by the Brexit select committee after it was obtained by a member of the public under freedom of information, was conducted in autumn 2017 but never published until now.

The DUP said the document demonstrated how damaging the backstop would be. The backstop was agreed between Theresa May and the EU as an insurance policy in the event the UK and EU can not agree a trade policy and in order to maintain an open border on the island.

The report highlights areas of cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Among those are an all-Ireland congenital heart disease network to ensure vulnerable children receive treatment on the island of Ireland. The report notes the network has a single surgical centre in Dublin and a specialist children's cardiology centre in Belfast.

Other areas that will be affected include major emergencies and A&E services, cancer research and health promotion.

 In several cases this pre-dates the Belfast Agreement and membership of the EU.

There is cross-border group of officials to intensify work on child protection which has been operationally since 2008.

A north/south alcohol policy advisor group was set up at the request of the two respective chief medical officers to provide advice and a platform for information sharing and "joined up action".

The EU also underpins everyday services like the operation of cross-border taxis and mobile phone roaming services.

Repatriation of waste, the prevention of the spread of animal disease, flood risk management, wildfire initiatives and horse racing are also listed in the study.

One of the most major issues highlighted is cross-bordering policing and cooperation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI. Both forces have expressed concern about Brexit's impact on policing, including how to deal with criminals who flee across the border in the absence of the European arrest warrant system.

Nineteen areas are listed as "avoiding a hard border" and include issues such customs and physical checks on live animals crossing the border to rules on movement of national treasures.

The movement of medicine across Ireland is also listed as Northern Ireland and the Republic is currently treated as a single entity by pharmaceutical and medical device companies and will be subjected to checks unless EU regulations apply.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the study reflects the range of formal and informal cooperation that currently occurs between north and south, adding that in several cases the cooperation pre-dates the Belfast Agreement and membership of the EU.

"It is worth remembering that in key areas like agriculture, health and education common policies are agreed formally but are implemented separately in each jurisdiction," the MEP said.

The DUP’s MEP Diane Dodds (Niall Carson/PA)
The DUP’s MEP Diane Dodds (Niall Carson/PA)

"Far from protecting this constructive process the much lauded backstop plan would fundamentally alter it.

"This is because it would uproot the normal templates of north-south cooperation. Control of our laws would instead be granted to EU institutions and committees, indefinitely, with no role for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"This would be bad for the institutions of the Belfast Agreement and bad for democracy."

Mrs Dodds said maintaining cooperation in the majority of areas would be addressed by retaining the provisions of the Common Travel Area and pursuing a comprehensive agreement between the UK and EU on free trade and customs.

"In many cases, where frameworks are highly integrated the circumstances are not unique to our Province," she added.

"For instance the conditions required to operate both the Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast and the Channel Tunnel will require a very similar technical agreement with Brussels.

"The answer to the question of North-South cooperation is therefore not to isolate Northern Ireland and place us in an economic straitjacket."

However, Mrs Dodds said that "genuine concerns" in areas like agri-food and healthcare must be taken seriously.

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