Brexit: Ambulances could be stopped at border, warns Labour MP

Shane Devlin has served as chief executive of the Ambulance Service for 11 months
Jennifer McKiernan and Dan O'Donoghue, Press Association

A bad Brexit deal could risk lives by stopping ambulances crossing the border in Northern Ireland, Labour has warned.

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said people living on the border could fall foul of differences between UK and EU healthcare laws after Brexit.

The Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston made the claim during the second reading of the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill in the Commons.

He said: "There are many examples where patients' lives have been saved because of free and open access for emergency services across the border.

"If we don't get the right agreement in place there is a real danger we could end up in a situation where an ambulance drives up to one side of the border and another meets it from the other side to transfer the patient."

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Mr Madders said Labour would "carefully monitor" the details of any Brexit agreement.

He broadly welcomed the Bill but raised concern over its arrival just months before the UK leaves the EU.

Justin Madders is Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston

He added: "It's now been 874 days since the UK voted to leave for the EU, although I think for many of us it seems like a whole lot longer.

"It is also a year since the EU (Withdrawal) Act was introduced so it's a matter of some concern that it's only now that this Bill is being introduced."

Health Minister Stephen Barclay told MPs the Bill would ensure the "continuity of healthcare for British nationals and EU citizens after Britain leaves the European Union".

He said: "It is clearly in the interests of the British public to ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements continue when we leave the EU, whether this happens through an agreement with the EU itself or through individual agreements with EU member states."

Mr Barclay said the Bill would ensure almost 200,000 British pensioners living in the EU and the millions travelling to the continent on holidays each year would continue to be able to access treatment.

The minister told MPs provisions in the Bill would ensure in event of a no-deal agreements would be implemented with individual member states to provide healthcare and avoid "a cliff edge".

He said: "This will benefit millions of UK nationals who live, study, work in travel in mainland Europe."

Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said the Bill would "give comfort to many thousands of mainly elderly and often very frail UK ex-pat citizens living mainly in the EU but also around the world".

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