The President of the European Committee of the Regions (Karl-Heinz Lambertz) visited the border at Flurrybridge today as part of a fact finding visit to Northern Ireland.
NILGA Vice President, Councillor Seán McPeake said:
“We welcome the visit by President Lambertz and the Committee of the Regions delegation to Northern Ireland and the border region and the interest they have shown.”
The Committee of the Regions is an important advisory body for the other EU institutions, ensuring that the positions and needs of regional and local authorities are respected. Without an Assembly and Executive providing any sort of clear voice in London and those negotiating the Brexit deal, our engagement with our European colleagues has never been more important.”
“Councils in Northern Ireland are now front and centre in the delivery of a vast array of civic services and it is up to us to not only anticipate legislative and regulatory change but to shape it in its formative stages. We left the delegation with the strongest impression that local government in Northern Ireland simply can’t be an afterthought, reacting to what others do or don’t do in terms of the Brexit next steps.”
“Prior to its visit, the Committee of the Regions has rightfully recognised (in the passing of a unanimous resolution) that we need support with the challenges posed by the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU. We are encouraged by its stance that local and regional authorities in the European Union must not be left to deal with these issues on our own and will continue our engagement in the months to come.”
On 17 May the European Committee of the Regions passed a resolution that voiced concern about the lack of progress in talks between the UK and the EU.
The resolution which was passed unanimously, "highlights" that there must be no hard border on the island of Ireland. It also argues that, to "mitigate" the negative effects of Brexit on regional economies, the EU should maintain a strong regional development policy, could make use of its agricultural and fisheries policies, and may need to make state-aid rules more flexible. The CoR also calls on the European Commission to assess the "possible need for a stabilisation fund for regions most adversely affected by UK's withdrawal from the EU".
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, the president of the CoR, said in the Press Release on 17 May:
"The UK's departure from the EU on 29 March 2019 risks creating major troubles for local and regional authorities across the EU. So far, there has been too little focus in the talks on the implications of Brexit for regions and cities across Europe. Because there is little indication about the future of the UK-EU relationship, local and regional authorities are struggling to make plans. But the starting point must be to avoid a hard border in Ireland and continue EU programmes – such as EU PEACE and Interreg – that have helped build peace since the Good Friday Agreement."
"This is a moment for pragmatism, in the negotiations and in the EU's post-Brexit budget. Instead, there are proposals to cut our most important solidarity and investment funds – cohesion policy – and we have yet to see evidence that social, agricultural, and fishing funds will be used to soften the impact of Brexit."