What Does Brexit Mean for Children’s Medical Services in Northern Ireland?
On December 8, 2017 European Union negotiators (“EU”) and the United Kingdom Government (“UK”) published a joint report on the progress of phase one of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  On December 15, 2017, the European Council found it sufficient to move on to phase two of negotiations.  However, the joint report published on December 8 is not binding, as nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  In this joint report, both parties agreed that maintaining the relationship of Northern Ireland (“NI”) with the Republic of Ireland is on the top of the agenda.  Both parties agree that the island of Ireland cannot return to the hard borders of the past.  The parties also agree that the people of NI who are Irish citizens will still continue to enjoy the rights of EU citizens, even if they reside in NI.  However, this does not cover the people of NI who are not Irish citizens or the people born after the UK officially leaves Britain. 
There is a lot of talk about how Brexit will affect agriculture and people’s commutes , but there seems to be less discussion around medical care.   NI uses Extra Contractual Referrals (“ECRs”), which are part of the EU Healthcare Directive, quite frequently in order to send its citizens to the Republic of Ireland for medical care.    
NI does not have the resources nor the people to support certain medical centers, such as pediatric cardiology and mental health treatment facilities.  Therefore, NI uses ECRs to send children to places in the Republic of Ireland, and sometimes to Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, to get the help that they need.  ECRs can only be used under certain circumstances. 
Once the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is official, the UK’s domestic version of the EU Healthcare Directive will still be intact. 
However, the UK can decide to repeal the domestic version of the law.  If the UK decides to repeal the domestic version of the EU Healthcare Directive, then Northern Ireland will lose its ability to use ECRs. This is problematic because, as previously stated, there are certain facilities that Northern Ireland does not have because they do not have the resources and/or a large enough group of people who need those facilities to justify its existence.  NI can still send their citizens to other medical facilities within the UK.   However, this causes a strain on families because they have to fly to another jurisdiction and stay somewhere, which costs money. Using the facilities in the Republic of Ireland is easier because it is on the same island, so the families can drive back and forth from their home.
This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.