A British exit from the European Union will have “serious implications” for Donegal according to business leaders on both side of the border.
The chief executives of the Letterkenny and Londonderry Chambers believe that Donegal would be one of the worst places affected by a UK ‘Brexit’
The referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is set to take place on June 23rd and there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the possible outcome of the vote.
They have warned that the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union could lead to lower wages, higher prices and major trade losses.
“The result will have serious implications for border counties such as Donegal which will be particularly affected should a Brexit occur,” Ms Toni Forrester, Chief Executive, Letterkenny Chamber said.
“We always say to people that there’s not really a border between Donegal and Derry but we’re worried that there will be should Brexit come to pass. Cross border co-operation has been so much better in the years following the Good Friday agreement. We get EU subsidies on a cross border basis and there’s great synergy between the two regions – like the North West Science Park. We’ve worked hard to build up those relationships over the years,” Ms Forrester said.
The UK and Ireland are both part of the EU. Since the 1920s they have operated a common travel area and they are both part of the EU customs union. However, there are now fears that goods being exported across the border could be subject to various forms of customs control.
Ms Sinead McLaughlin, Chief Executive, Londonderry Chamber, is also Vice Chair of the ‘Northern Ireland Stronger In’ advisory body.
“Our natural hinterland is Donegal and for Derry to be cut off from that will have a negative impact on both economies, north and south,” Ms McLaughlin warned.
“We’re already the most peripheral region in the EU and if the UK breaks away from the rest of Europe we’ll be even more isolated,” she said.
Having welcomed two major new multi-national companies to Derry in recent times, Ms McLaughlin said they had been attracted to the North West due to its proximity to the EU market, the fact that it was English speaking and that Derry was able to offer competitive operating costs.
“All that goes out the window is we don’t have access to the European market. It will be detrimental to the whole region,” she warned.
What about claims that bodies such as the Londonderry Chamber were being overly sensitive and scare-mongering?
“We survive in one another’s shadow. A good day for Derry is also a good day for Donegal and it’s pretty concerning how this is being played out politically in the wider UK as Northern Ireland is the only region which is a net beneficiary of the UK being in the EU. We get more than we pay out here and I can’t see Westminster being as favourable to us should we wake up on June 24 and find that we’re no longer part of the EU,” she said.
At present, Ireland is Northern Ireland’s single largest export market. The latest data shows 36 per cent (£3.6 billion) of Northern Ireland’s goods and services exports go to Ireland.
“We’re economic partners and we depend on one another. It’s unthinkable to imagine that we might have to look at the possibility of work restrictions between Ireland and the UK not to mention the imposition of border controls,” Ms Forrester said.
“We’re campaigning for the UK to remain as a strong, core EU member as a UK exit would throw up a wide range of possible outcomes, some potentially very damaging for Ireland and the Irish economy,” Ms McLaughlin added.
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