Executive members of the Chamber of Commerce met with former UK Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Major as they arrived in Londonderry backing the ‘Remain’ campaign.
Gavin Killeen, Chamber President, said: “We met with Tony Blair and Sir John Major, taking the opportunity to stress how important EU membership is to business and also to the social connections in Derry and the wider cross-border region of the North West of Ireland.
“We explained how for us the border is seamless, with our city’s suburbs spreading both sides of the border. Businesses and individuals cross the border frequently, often several times in one day.
“EU membership is especially important to Derry, as the city with the UK’s highest unemployment and one of the worst levels of poverty. One of the factors in this is our weak connectivity and the Chamber believes the EU membership is a primary means of overcoming those connectivity problems.
“There are three major projects on which the Chamber is seeking urgently delivery. Those are the expansion of Magee campus and the road connections with both Belfast and Dublin. Each of those projects has important cross-border impacts and in each case we see the EU as potentially taking a key role in ensuring delivery takes place. We have urged the former prime ministers to do what they can to support these projects and to spread the message of their importance to our city and region.
“A Brexit would be very damaging to our region, on both sides of the border. We have had too little investment over recent decades, but where we have had inward and local investment in and around Derry our membership of the EU has been an important factor in securing this. We believe that an ‘in’ vote will reassure investors and lead to renewed investment in our city and region.”
Chamber chief executive Sinead McLaughlin, who is vice chair of Northern Ireland’s StrongerIn campaign, added: “This is a vital vote – perhaps the most important that anyone voting this month will ever be engaged in. And it is more important to Northern Ireland than probably any other part of the UK. So it is desperately important that our electorate use their democratic right to use their vote and help determine their future.”