Ireland no deal crisis: EU rules could leave Irish patients at risk after hard Brexit

Under a no-deal Brexit, patients on either side of the Irish border will face complications while trying to access medical treatments. Strict EU rules mean doctors, nurses and hospital workers in the Republic of Ireland will not longer be able to share patient records automatically with colleagues in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Thousands of patients rely on cross-border healthcare but EU restrictions could be detrimental to their future treatment.

Stephen McMahon, co-founder of the Irish Patients’ Association, told Politico: “The very last thing we want to hear about is that some patients die because they couldn’t get treatment in Northern Ireland.”

The Government is working on securing reciprocal healthcare deals with the EU’s remaining member states to continue existing arrangements.

Both London and Dublin have vowed to continue offering cross-border healthcare, even if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Rory Campbell, a data protection lawyer, said: “If we come to a no-deal Brexit, the problem isn’t Northern Ireland data moving to the EU.

“It’s that it becomes very difficult to move EU data to Northern Ireland.”

Frances O’Hagan, a Northern Irish doctor, has warned healthcare professionals will be able to do very little without a political deal.

“If people see a GP, their medical records regularly come back to us from the South.

“Politicians have had three years to figure this out. A lot of this stuff is out of our control.”

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The Confederation of British Industry report warns that businesses will also face a number of hurdles to replicate their existing data procedures.

“UK economic activity is dependent on these flows,” the report reads. “But disruption would place immense compliance burdens on individual organisations which would have to invest in legal and administrative fees to ensure EU-UK data transfers remained lawful.”

It added: “In the long term it could also lead to the UK being less attractive to investors and thus generate knock-on effects for he economy at large.”

Meanwhile the Irish government has stepped up its Brexit warnings as Dublin fears the UK is “heading straight” for no deal.

Charlie Flanagan, Ireland’s justice minister, said: “It seems clear that prime minister Boris Johnson and his Cabinet – comprising as they do a team of hard Brexiteers – are heading straight for the October 31 come what may.

“So there’s a lot of work to be done in the weeks ahead.”

“A no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for the UK in particular. It will be very bad for Ireland. It will be very bad for the European Union and we need to do everything we can to avoid it,” he added.

Helen McEntee, the country’s European affairs minister, signalled that Dublin is not willing to make an easy compromise on the controversial backstop.

She said a time-limit to the measure to ensure a free border would not be acceptable.

“A backstop with a time-limit ceases to be a backstop. “It exists as an insurance mechanism,” she said.

“The backstop is a necessary legal guarantee for all of us to make sure those commitments are fulfilled.

“What’s been asked of us at the moment is to remove that legal guarantee and to replace it with nothing but commitment to try and find some other solutions.

“Of course we have yet to hear from the UK as to what they might look like. We’ve heard certain proposals which have already been looked at by the EU and the UK together over the last two years – they’re not going to do the work that the backstop currently does.

“So for us, again, a time-limit on the backstop essentially removes the backstop because an insurance mechanism with a time limit on it ceases to be an insurance policy.”

Ms McEntree vowed to continue fighting for the withdrawal agreement, insisting the UK-EU deal put together by Theresa May and Brussels is not yet dead.