Arising from the Brexit vote important development projects in the border area, worth in the region of €132 million, risk being stalled unless there is clarity about the future of the funding mechanisms and renewed commitment to implementing projects, Mairead McGuinness MEP for Midlands North-West and Vice-President of the European Parliament has said.
Speaking following a meeting in Newry on Friday (22nd July) with the East Border Region, the cross border body which facilitates cross border economic development and involves six Local Authorities, she said these projects are funded jointly by the EU and the two Governments.
“A significant 85pc of the funds for these projects come from the EU. Uncertainty, like about the timing of Brexit, has given rise to caution in the relevant government departments about committing to projects which have a life span beyond 2020 for completion.
“All EU programmes including INTERREG VA and Peace IV are part of the Brexit negotiations and this is leading to such uncertainty. The project promoters need clarity about the future and we have to try and ensure that the impasse does not negatively impact on them and their ability to progress the very valuable work they are doing.
“In the Brexit discussions it is important to recognise the impact the current uncertainty is having at local level, among communities and businesses. Nowhere is such work more critical to ensure continuity and certainty than in the border region.
“I will be doing everything I can to ensure that this issue is on the agenda so that it can be addressed.” she said.
Ms McGuinness said the projects involve a whole spectrum of important initiatives designed to boost the economic and social life of communities on both sides of the border.
It includes SME (Small and Medium Enterprise) cross border research and innovation collaboration; the Shared Waters Enhancement & Loughs Legacy (SWELL) project which represents a cross-border partnership comprising NI Water, Irish Water, Agri-Food & Biosciences Institute, Loughs Agency and East Border Region, working collaboratively to improve water quality in the shared waters of Carlingford Lough and Lough Foyle through the necessary improvement of wastewater assets and SCAMP, a Sustainable Catchment Area Plan which aims to secure safe drinking water sources and it will contribute to improvements in cross border raw water quality.
“I hope that in the coming weeks, the importance of providing certainty to these projects will overrule the concerns about the Brexit timeframe,” she added.
Friday’s meeting was attended by East Border Region CEO Pamela Arthurs, INTERREG VA Programme Manager, Dette Hughes and many public representatives.