Taoiseach addresses ‘Bordering on Brexit’ event in Newry

November 7, 2016

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Newry on Thursday last where he discussed the impact of Brexit with more than 100 business leaders from the area at a “Bordering on Brexit” luncheon event hosted by Newry Junior Chamber at the Canal Court Hotel in the city.

Mr Kenny’s visit came just a day after his All-Island Civic Dialogue on the issue in Dublin, which also included local members of the Border Communities Against Brexit group.

Addressing the lunchtime business event, the Taoiseach said improving the wealth of economies on either side of the border was mutually beneficial, and he criticised what he described as “one-upmanship” in any Brexit discussions about both jurisdictions – referring to claims made by Stormont first minister Arlene Foster that officials from south of the border were attempting to poach foreign investors bound for the north.

Mr Kenny reiterated the intrinsic and inextricable links between economies in Northern Ireland and the Republic and warned that “there is nothing to be gained by one-upmanship on either side of the border.”

“What is good news for the Northern Ireland economy, is good news for the southern economy and vice versa,” he said, adding that any downturn in either economy would have a “mutually negative effect and is not in any of our interests.”

The Irish government leader also sought to reassure local business leaders present of his determination to oppose a hard border once Brexit is implemented.

“I know that here in Newry, there are real and deep concerns about any future arrangements that might harden the border,” he stated.

“Let me assure you today, in Newry, that I and the government that I lead are doing and will continue to do our utmost to help you maintain the free movement of goods, of services and of people, across this island.

“The practical implications of Brexit are nowhere more clear than in Newry, just miles from the United Kingdom’s only land border with another EU state.

“Many thousands of people cross the border each day

“In 2014, total cross-border trade in manufacturing came to over €3 billion or just under £2.5bn.

“That is a 7.1 per cent increase on 2013 and I want to see, and you want to see, this kind of trend continue.”

The visiting Taoiseach also met with Newry Chamber members in a specially convened meeting to discuss Brexit implications, before heading to Stormont where he met with Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr Kenny’s discussions in the North came on the same day one of the most important constitutional court cases in generations ruled that the British Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU.  The High Court ruling effectively means the government cannot trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – beginning formal exit negotiations with the EU – on its own, but rather an act of Parliament would be required, which would be subject to approval by both MPs and peers, including those on the Remain side.  The ruling would have huge implications for the timing and terms of Brexit.  The government is appealing the High Court decision, with a further hearing expected next month.