Derry business leaders have underlined their case against a hard border in Ireland during talks with EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier.
Derry’s Chamber of Commerce said the meeting with Mr Barnier in Derry’s Guildhall this week was “a great opportunity” to outline their concerns about leaving the European Union.
Chamber president Jennifer McKeever said the get-together brought some clarity on the “sobering” truth about Brexit for the North West.
She said: “His exact words were, ‘it cannot be business as usual’, and that Brexit is a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone. He was very clear that things have to change and put paid to any illusions people here may have that there will no change for us due to Brexit.
“Mr Barnier was very aware of the exceptional circumstances that we have here. He agreed with everyone in the room that we need a legally robust and rigorous framework to map out the road ahead. He heard our calls for clarity on the proposals and listened to our concerns. He was left in no doubt about the very real and serious situation we face locally in the North West.”
Mrs McKeever said the EU official was assured that “we are all on the same team in the North West in seeking something that protects our economic wellbeing and civic society”.
“He showed a strong understanding that we have a cross border, cross-regional economy and a cross-border, cross-regional civic society. He was informed that anything to the detriment of either of those will leave us poorer in terms of the economy and as a society in general.”
Ms McKeever said Mr Barnier highlighted his reasoning for a ‘backstop’ arrangement and reiterated the EU position on it.
“He was adamant there will be no agreement without a backstop in place, should the UK Government fail to put forward an acceptable alternative for the border.
“He explained that the back
stop arrangement would not be put in place to change the UK red lines but, rather, because of the UK red lines. He was clear that the backstop will be there to protect the integrity of the Customs Union and Single Market.
“He also reaffirmed the position that, unless the UK Government presents an achievable and workable solution that protects the Customs Union and Single Market, the all-island economy and the GFA in all its dimensions – the backstop will be implemented.”