Brexit: Border businesses have already closed, committee told

Border region businesses ‘more reluctant to expand’ amid uncertainty over future

A number of cross-Border organisations were addressing the Oireachtas committee on Brexit challenges facing Border businesses. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/File

A number of cross-Border organisations were addressing the Oireachtas committee on Brexit challenges facing Border businesses. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/File

 

Businesses along the Border have already closed as a result of Brexit, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Pamela Arthurs, chief executive of the East Border Region, a local authority led cross-Border network, said in particular small rural businesses are being affected.

“Businesses, particularly on this side of the Border, so many have closed – the small, the micro, the mushroom industry for example . . . they’re going now. We need to look at this,” she told the Rural and Community Development Committee on Wednesday.

A number of cross-Border organisations were addressing the Oireachtas committee on Brexit challenges facing Border businesses.

Ms Arthurs said businesses in the region are “less confident and more reluctant to expand as the future is so uncertain”.

“Current developments at Westminster have compounded the problem,” she said.

Ms Arthurs also said there must be “strategic intervention” to assist the cross-Border region.

“If you take EU funding out of cross-Border activity, no one funds it. There is a small amount of money from the Department of Foreign Affairs here, that is it. It has never really been taken seriously,” she said.

Shane Campbell, chief executive of the Irish Central Border Area Network said broadband is “absolutely critical” in order to open up rural life along the Border.

“The delivery of the national broadband plan has to be key and has to be critical. We can’t afford to sit on it again now for another six years, otherwise Ireland loses its place,” he said.

Mr Campbell said the Border region had “pre-existing issues” before Brexit that are still not being addressed.

He said EU funding programmes such as PEACE, LEADER and Interreg have all been “very important” but “they’ve been sticky plaster solutions onto an area and an issue which is huge”.

Dr Anthony Soares, deputy director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies said it is “essential” that EU funding for North-South and cross-Border co-operation is secured for the next programming period.

“It is of paramount importance that legal guarantees are give that any future PEACE PLUS programme will encompass the Border counties of Ireland, will be of a significant contribution, of at least 15 per cent of any total budget, to cross-Border co-operation,” he said.

Dr Soares said even as the UK’s official exit from the EU rapidly approaches “it is still unclear as to what the scale and nature of the impact will be on Border communities and business”.

Aidan Campbell from the Rural Community Network said broadband connectivity and an adequate road network are a pre-requisite to encourage young people to remain and return to rural Border communities.

He said many of these communities are still recovering from the legacy of the Troubles.

Sinn Féin TD Martin Kenny said Brexit has “totally destroyed” the potential that existed in the cross-Border region. He said funding over the years “has never been enough” and instead “just enough to manage”.

Labour TD Willie Penrose said “areas are nothing without their people and people won’t be there unless there’s something to provide gainful employment for them”.