BCAB campaign group meets EU Brexit Coordinator

September 25, 2017

The Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) group has met with former Belgian prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, during his two day fact finding visit to Belfast last week. 

BCAB spokesperson, Declan Fearon, told The Examiner the campaign group were pleased with the discussions held with the EU Parliament’s Coordinator on Brexit and he commended Mr Verhofstadt and his team on the level of work and research carried out into the effects of a hard border in Ireland.

During his visit, Mr Verhofstadt said a “unique solution” was needed to avoid a hard border and he insisted that responsibility for finding a workable solution lay with the British government and not the EU.  The EU Brexit Coordinator also suggested that problems surrounding a post-Brexit border could be overcome if the north remained in the customs union and single market.

Mr Verhofstadt was also sceptical about proposals in a recent government position paper which suggested there would be no need for physical customs checks even if the UK was outside the customs union, stressing that a border solution needed to be put forward by the UK government.

“The EU Brexit Coordinator’s team is made up of a range of people with long experience in drafting and managing the EU Peace and Reconciliation Programmes,” BCAB’s Declan Fearon added.

“Mr Verhofstadt is very highly respected in the EU parliament and his recommendations to the Parliament on Brexit will be pivotal as EU parliament has a veto on the final Brexit deal with the UK.

“During our engagement with him, we outlined the risks to our peace, the very damaging economic fallout out of Brexit, the rights of EU Citizens living in the North, as well as the huge implications for sectors who export to the EU dependent on EU licenses such as the financial, the chemical and pharmaceutical sector.

“The agriculture and agri food sector would suffer enormous damage if Brexit was to proceed as the British government has outlined in their paper and Mr Verhofstadt recognises this and wants a unique deal for the North to remain within the customs union and the single market. This proposal though must come from the British government,” reiterated Mr Fearon.

BCAB will travel to Westminster in November to lobby British MP’s, Peers and Ministers on the avoidance of a hard border in post-Brexit Ireland.

The MEP’s visit to Ireland comes ahead of a crucial summit in Brussels in October which will see leaders of the 27 EU states decide whether adequate progress has been made in the first phase of Brexit negotiations to progress talks to focus on future trading relations.

The EU has outlined progress has to be made in three key areas: citizens’ rights, the size of the UK’s exit bill and the shape of the Irish border post-Brexit.