Mixed response to Brexit Secretary’s Newry visit

November 5, 2018

The government’s Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab paid a one-day visit to the Newry area on Friday, where he met with representatives of local businesses and toured Warrenpoint Port.

The visit was hosted by the Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade, its CEO Colm Shannon describing the event as a welcome opportunity for local businesses to highlight concerns about the border and future trading relationships with the EU.

Mr Shannon said:  “The Greater Newry Area is a region that has been transformed from one of high unemployment in the late 1980s to virtual full employment today. Peace, an open border and access to markets has contributed greatly to that prosperity.  The Secretary of State for DExEU was shown around Warrenpoint Port which is Northern Ireland’s second largest commercial port. The port handles approximately a 1000 ships per year and 40% of the freight originates in or is delivered to the South of Ireland. An open border and freedom to trade east west are essential for this trade to continue.

“He also met with a roundtable of local businesses to learn about their businesses and the challenges they face.  Key concerns included supply and access to labour and raw materials, regulation of products, no delays at borders or ports and the maintenance of existing trade North- South and East -West.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard criticised the  manner of Mr Raab’s visit, accusing him of “coming in like a thief in the night”.

“I think this is the perfect illustration of the cynicism and the disrespect that the Tory government is showing towards the electorate here in South Down and Ireland in general when it comes to Brexit,” Mr Hazzard said.

“We have some serious concerns around Brexit, the local community here are very anxious, the local business community are very anxious about what the next number of months and years is going to hold for them.   The fact we have yet again another Tory minister not providing an opportunity to meet and engage and listen to those concerns is absolutely unacceptable.

“Dominic Raab is like a thief in the night coming in and out, not providing opportunity, not just me personally but the people I represent, and the media should have the opportunity to be able to ask the hard questions.  The fact the Tories run away from this every time is telling in itself,” he added.