Damning report warns emergency services face ‘burn out’ from no-deal Brexit planning

PUBLISHED: 15:29 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:53 21 May 2020

Fire and ambulance staff applauding local heroes during Thursday's nationwide Clap for Carers initiative. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA.

Fire and ambulance staff applauding local heroes during Thursday's nationwide Clap for Carers initiative. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Local emergency services face being ‘burnt out’ by no-deal Brexit planning, a leaked government report has found.

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The report, compiled by cross-party coronavirus scrutiny committee C-19 Foresight, said that failing to seek an extension would “compound COVID-19 with a second UK societal-wide, economic and social, chronic threat”.

The 76-page national review said that all 42 regional Local Resilience Forums (LFRs) - a consortium of emergency planning groups made up of local police, fire services, NHS - face being ‘overwhelmed’ then “burnout” by no-deal Brexit planning during the coronavirus crisis.

“If the transition period was not extended then the LRFs would have to plan for a no-deal situation and this would be overwhelming for the structures,” the review read.

“The realistic capability and capacity to deliver Brexit was discussed and the continuation of a no-deal Brexit was strongly advised against due to the risk to staff wellbeing and health.”

One member said that emergency services were already worn down by “floods, Novichok, terrorism, Brexit preparations” stressing the “last thing” they needed was a no-deal Brexit.

“If we are to do recovery properly we do not have the space to start scaling-up a Brexit response too. This needs to be fed into HM government thinking now.

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“This isn’t pro/anti-Brexit – it is about being sensible for the recovery process and the health and wellbeing of our responders.”

Another warned that Brexit planning at a time where first responders were dealing with the coronavirus outbreak would “overwhelm resources”. “I have no doubt we would endeavour to continue delivering, but at what cost?” they added.

But the government remains steadfast in its rejection of any extension. Earlier this week, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, threatened to walk away from talks in two weeks unless the EU changed its negotiating position.

In a bid to allay LRF concerns, the Liberals Democrats leadership hopeful Layla Moran has called on the government to release the findings and seek an extension to Brexit trade talks.

“The government must come clean with the public about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on our emergency services and publish this report in full,” she said.

“We cannot risk overwhelming our vital public services and undermining their ability to protect local communities. Emergency response teams must be given time to recover and be supplied with critical equipment like PPE, so that staff can to do their jobs safely.

“The option is there to extend the transition period and the public rightly expects the government to take it.”

A government spokesperson has said it is working closely with LRFs and local governments to provide support towards a “smooth” Brexit transition.

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