Northern Ireland

Brexit 'could delay' NI fire service response

A stock image of fire fighters Image copyright Huw Evans picture agency

Fire service response times in Northern Ireland may be impacted as a result of Brexit, the fire service has said.

An internal report by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) suggested currency swings could hit its budget.

It also said fleet management, which currently depends on the import of vehicles from the EU, was at risk.

In a statement, the NIFRS said it was also looking at the possible impact on cross-border arrangements.

The information was revealed through a freedom of information request issued by the People's Vote campaign, which wants another referendum on Brexit.

'Critical risk'

Most large-scale organisations produce risk assessment reports to identify potential issues which may impact its function.

The internal NIFRS document said most products it uses come from the EU and that any potential tariffs on imported EU goods may affect its budget management.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Concerns were also raised around cross-border operations

As a result, the document stated any "corrective action" could "impact on the delivery of core organisational objectives".

The risk, labelled "critical", could result in "reduced operational cover" and "delays in responding to operational incidents", the report said.

A number of "high" risks identified in the report included delays in buying equipment and price increases.

Meanwhile, "medium" risks featured the ability of fire service staff to cross the Irish border during emergencies - with specific concern raised around the Belleek /Ballyshannon area.

In a statement, the NIFRS said it was working with other agencies, including the Department of Health to "identify any potential impacts on service delivery position" as a result of Brexit.

It added that it "will implement business continuity measures as necessary".

"NIFRS is also engaging with the Republic of Ireland Border Fire Services on any potential impacts the EU exit might have on existing cross-border arrangements," the statement added.

'Blood red'

Meanwhile DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her party's red line that there could be no Brexit deal that would divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom is "blood red".

There has been speculation the UK could agree to regulatory checks at Irish Sea ports as part of a backstop deal but Theresa May relies on the DUP's 10 MPs to give her a majority in Parliament.

"There cannot be a border down the Irish Sea, a differential between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK," Mrs Foster told BBC Today.

"The red line is blood red."

When asked if she was prepared to vote against the government on a Brexit deal, she said the DUP does not want to be in that position.

"This is too important to be playing around with things because this is the union - this is what brought me into politics," Mrs Foster said.

'Bizarre'

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill criticised Mrs Foster's remarks, saying they were "absolutely bizarre".

It was "another indication that the DUP has lost the run of themselves," Mrs O'Neill said.

She was speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's response to the Government's proposals on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

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