'Very political' Brexit committee told manufacturers continue to relocate to Donegal

Stephen Kelly.
Stephen Kelly.

Derry man, Stephen Kelly, has described the Westminster Exiting the European Union Committee as "very political" and said "business is more interested in the practicalities" as more manufacturers set up base in Donegal to insure themselves against Brexit.


Mr. Kelly, who is Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI, told the committee that members of the lobby were choosing to relocate parts of their operations across the border as a result of Brexit uncertainty.

During the briefing, which took place last week, Mr. Kelly said: "In this past week alone, I have been speaking with one member who has purchased a site in County Mayo for £500,000.

"Another member has purchased five acres in County Donegal, roughly a mile and a half from where he is currently situated."

Elsewhere, he said he believed the EU will insist on post-Brexit controls on what comes into its market place in the Republic of Ireland, either from Britain or the North, and that a solution is needed to protect business.

"You have a scenario where, with no checks, for instance, at the Port of Larne or at Belfast, or Warrenpoint or Foyle Port for that matter, goods could come into Northern Ireland and just simply travel across the border, so all of a sudden the EU does not have any sight of what is circulating in its marketplace.

"It is fair for the EU to insist that it has some level of control and understanding of what comes into its marketplace," he said.

However, Mr. Kelly said his members wanted to see a solution that ensured free and fair access to all markets. They don't want a bloody nose, he affirmed.

"In one scenario, the UK shuts the door in its face, in another scenario the EU shuts the door in its face, and in another scenario the UK is just flinging open the door. In every one of those scenarios, our businesses get a broken nose.

"At the end of the day, that is the only thing that matters to us. It is whether our businesses have an ability to trade legitimately and fairly across all marketplaces," said the manufacturing lobby chief.

During the briefing Mr. Kelly revealed there had been some reticence among members over whether or not the body should appear before the committee due to its political role.

"When we got the invitation to come and give evidence to the committee, Chair, there was a lot of debate about whether we should do that or not, because this is a very political committee. Business is interested in the practicalities," he said.

To this Committee Chair, Labour MP Hilary Benn, said: "Surely not. You are at the risk of provoking controversy. Do carry on, please."

Mr. Kelly responded: "Business is more interested in the practicalities."

The transcript of the briefing is available to read in full here.