Seventy children from both sides of the Border took ownership of the Brexit debate when they took part in a special event hosted by the Southern Ombudsman for Children and the Northern Ireland agency, Promoting the Rights of Children & Young People on Friday (10th November).
At the event which took place at the Canal Court Hotel in Newry the children got the opportunity to put questions to Southern MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, and Northern Ireland MEP Jim Nicholson, among others.
Speaking after the event Ms McGuinness said it was a most important event. “The young people put a lot of effort and thought into their contributions. Sadly many of the questions raised by them cannot be answered because the negotiations are moving slowly.
“Young people worry about this uncertainty, about how it will affect them now and in the future. Issues were raised on health, education, agriculture and environment, none of which at this point the answers are certain.
“Cooperation on really important issues affecting people and their livelihoods on both sides of the border needs to continue post Brexit and we have to ensure that the structures of the Good Friday agreement are fully used to ensure this work continues,” she said.
She said the disruptive effects of Brexit are already evident at this early stage. “There is a strong sterling-euro differential and the uncertainty around what the final outcome will be is holding back a lot of decision-making where enterprises are adapting a ‘wait and see’ approach.”
Ms McGuinness said a transition period will be needed for a new partnership to be agreed and implemented.
“The worry is that we are struggling to get over the first phase of money, citizens rights and the Irish issues.
“To avoid problems in Ireland, the UK must remain within the Customs Union, meaning that no customs duties would apply and the same rules and standards would apply. After all there are countries like Monaco which are not members of the EU but are part of the Customs Union.”
“Otherwise tariffs post Brexit in a worst-case scenario could reach 50pc particularly in the agri-food area,” she said.