Cross-border free trade zone may be a way to mitigate Brexit: John Kelpie

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Derry City and Strabane District Council boss John Kelpie says the implementation of a cross-border free trade zone in the North West could help mitigate Brexit.

The council Chief Executive said the loss of European regional development funding and the anticipated growth of red tape post-Brexit are major concerns for Derry, Tyrone and Donegal.

He made the comments as the local authority, together with Donegal County Council, published a new report looking at the potential effects of Brexit.

The report, entitled ‘Initial Analysis of the Challenges and Opportunities of Brexit for the Derry City and Strabane and Donegal County Council areas - The North West City Region, February 2017’, was completed with the help of researchers from the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre , Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College, Dublin.

Mr. Kelpie, said that while the report looks at some major issues, the research provides strong foundations for the city region’s pre-emptive strategy in tackling the Brexit issue going forward.

“Our research demonstrates that it is imperative to ensure that our strategic priorities are realised in relation to connectivity, skills development and infrastructure provision to strengthen our competitive position in what is likely to be a potentially more challenging environment in a post-Brexit era,” he said.

“Key concerns include the loss of the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund – from which N. Ireland receives twice as much the UK average per head. This will particularly effect the local community, voluntary and social sector with implications for the continuation of services, and one of the strong messages our councils will be conveying is the need for guarantees that equivalent funding will be provided from other sources.

“The impact of leaving the Single Market and the implications of trade losses with the UK under World Trade Organisation tariffs will be significant.

“There will also be additional pressure on enterprise and export with any level of additional red tape associated with a hard border, so we will be making a robust case for seamless movement between jurisdictions. This report provides a platform for our two councils to strongly voice our shared concerns.

“Moving forwards the team will continue to revise the report as more information becomes available to ensure that the area is in a position to present a unified case to both governments on the specific actions required to both mitigate the impact of this challenge and maximise the opportunities resulting from it as the situation develops.”

He added: “As a council we will also be proactively working to address existing issues through our Strategic Inclusive Growth Plan to strengthen our infrastructure, skills base and economy and our ability to absorb any of the coming changes.

“This joint work will be on-going as the nature of the UK’s exit from the EU becomes clearer.

“We are beginning to explore opportunities emergent from Brexit including a number of localised solutions such as the development of a Cross-Border Free Trade Zone within the North West City Region to mitigate the potential impact of Brexit while maximising any benefits of the UK’s exit from the EU. We will continue to engage with all of those who live and work in the region and would welcome any further comments that you may have in response to this report.”

The report is available on the Council website at – http://www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/Strategic-Growth/Publications
Anyone who has feedback or comments on the report is urged to email them to strategicgrowth@derrystrabane.com or strategicgrowth@donegalcoco.ie