Representatives from Derry City & Strabane District Council have said European Union and government officials have been made fully aware of the challenges Brexit poses to the north west region.
The Mayor and Council Chief Executive, John Kelpie, formed part of a delegation which recently met with officials who report to EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, during a visit to Brussels.
At a Strategic Partnership meeting held in the Guildhall yesterday, Michael Gallagher, Strategy Manager at Derry City & Strabane District Council, gave an update on local progress with regards to preparations around Brexit.
Mr. Gallagher pointed to a major report published recently on the impact of Brexit across the entire border region, which showed that locally, there were 326,000 crossings at the three major border points at Culmore/Muff, Buncrana Road/ Bridgend and Lifford/ Strabane every week.
The number of commuters between Donegal to Derry and Tyrone was far greater than any other cross-border region across the North.
“We are at a point now where there is a clear understanding of the uniqueness of this cross-border region,” he said.
He said that there was at present economic growth locally, particularly in terms of the rise in tourism and local infrastructure such as more restaurants, while adding that Brexit was expected to impact on the prospected job growth locally.
Mr. Gallagher said that there had been much partnership work already undertaken with Donegal County Council and the next phase of this involved preparing people for the impact of Brexit.
He added that as well as the meetings with EU officials, council representatives have met with the Seanad and NI Affairs Committee and feedback has been very positive.
“We have been successful in influencing those people involved in policy making,” those gathered were told.
Mayor McHugh concurred and commended Derry & Strabane and Donegal Councils for hitting the ground running with joint partnership work from the outset since the Brexit result last year.
“They haven’t been waiting on anyone to make decisions,” he said. “They have been proactive in preparing our North West region to deal with the consequences of Brexit.
He added that in many ways the councils were “probably much better informed and prepared” than some of the government representatives in terms of Brexit. “I would encourage that work to continue,” he said.
Last month, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, rejected the UK’s Brexit proposals for the Irish border.
Speaking inside the Dáil, Mr. Verhofstadt said the proposals put forward by the British Government are not possible.
“I have always thought that if a border is not visible, then it is no border,” said Mr. Verhofstadt.
Mr. Verhofstadt went on to accuse the British Government of not taking seriously the impact Brexit will have on the Good Friday Agreement.