Newry Leads the Way on Brexit Debate
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in association with the local business community today (29October) hosted more than 200 delegates in Newry for an economic conference on the ‘Brexit Debate’ (Britain’s potential exit from the European Union).
Councillor Naomi Bailie, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council welcomed MP’s, MEP’s, MLA’s, Councillors, representatives from local schools as well as senior business and civic leaders to ‘The Big Debate’, which coincided with the launch of the Council’s Economic, Regeneration and Investment Strategy for 2015-2020 and the launch of its Foreign Direct Investment Smartphone App.
Speaking about the debate she said, “I am delighted that the Council in association with the local business community has taken the ‘Brexit Debate’ to the national stage by hosting this first major political debate, in the North of Ireland, on the economic implications of a vote that could potentially result in Britain leaving the EU. The potential impact on the North of Ireland exiting the European Union following the proposed Referendum in 2017 cannot be underestimated. With issues to be discussed including the impact on the Peace Process, the future economic prosperity of the region and border control with the south of Ireland, today kick starts the discussion on the pros and cons and the arguments for and against an exit.”
The event, which was hosted by Len O Hagan, Chair of NI Water, attracted high profile speakers and panellists from across the UK and Ireland including Dáithi O’Ceallaigh, Former Ambassador to the UK, UN and WTO, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP, Shadow Chancellor for Europe and Irwin Armstrong, former Chairman of the NI Conservative Party.
Pat McFadden MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Europe, to “The Big Brexit Debate” said, “The decision on the United Kingdom’s future in Europe will be the biggest decision our country has taken in a generation. It will have an impact in terms of trade, investment and jobs. We will secure a better future for our people by keeping our seat at Europe’s top table rather than walking away from it. The better future is to play a leading role and influencing change rather than walking away and chasing a sovereignty that would see us the recipient of rules decided by others rather than by ourselves.”
The delegates were given their chance to voice their opinion on the argument as the event culminated in an audience Q&A with electronic voting on a number of issues which will form the basis of research for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to take the debate forward in Northern Ireland and beyond.
Irwin Armstrong, former Chair of the NI Conservative Party was critical of the EU and in his address made the case for an EU exit. He said, "The EU is no longer suited to the needs of its members and without substantial reform it will eventually fail. The UK needs to see that reform or Brexit will become the only viable option."
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who held the office of President of the European Council in 2004 was invited to discuss the relationship between the UK and Ireland as ‘good neighbours’. He said, “British and Irish membership of the European Union has been hugely important for Northern Ireland, both in terms of supporting the peace process and in helping develop its economy.
He also made the point about the impact a UK exit would potentially have on the Republic of Ireland. He said, “Britain is our most important trading partner. We trade over €1billion in goods and services every week. A British departure from the UK, and the uncertainty surrounding it, could have negative consequences for our economy.”
During the event Newry, Mourne and Down District Council launched its Enterprise, Regeneration and Investment Strategy 2015-2020 for the area, further details of which can be found on the Council website www.newrymournedown.org.
The new Invest in Newry, Mourne and Down FDI App is also available to download on Android, Apple, Windows and Blackberry Smartphones. Search for ‘Invest in Newry’ on the respective stores.