Council on Europe formed to push for North's interests concerning Brexit

Political, business and community leaders have come together to advocate for the North's interests in the Brexit negotiations.

Ulster Unionist Steve Aiken is the chairman of the newly-formed Independent Council on Europe.

SDLP MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell is one of the vice-chairmen.

Mr Aiken said: "Given the historic few days we have witnessed in the House of Commons it is high time that Northern Ireland begins to assert itself amidst the uncertainty of Brexit.

"The Scottish and Welsh governments have already produced comprehensive papers on how they view their future place in Europe.

"Sadly the political inertia and instability here means we are lagging far behind.

"Our Council is determined to fill the vacuum left by poor political leadership at Stormont and produce our own paper on how Northern Ireland can best navigate the choppy seas of Brexit."

Dr McDonnell said one of his deepest fears surrounded the border.

"Platitudes from the Prime Minister and Secretary of State about 'no-return to the borders of the past' will not wash.

"The current course of action would suggest that we are heading for a hard border, with customs and excise checks that will cause total havoc.

"It is my hope that this Independent Council on Europe can be a strong voice, in the absence of a functioning Executive at Stormont, championing our unique circumstances and arguing for the retention of the already existing special relationship between Europe and Northern Ireland."

Another vice-chairman, Ian Parsley from the European Movement NI, called on the Federation of Small Businesses, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors, the Ulster Farmers Union and others to make submissions to the new group.

More on this topic

Food prices could rise by 45% if there is a no deal Brexit, retail group warn

Government reassures farmers over tariff threats in event of no-deal Brexit

Brexit Secretary holds ‘productive’ talks after Juncker expresses no-deal fears

Newly-partnered Fianna Fail and SDLP release joint statement on Brexit


More in this Section

Industry group calls for tougher tax for online retailers

'No doubt' many countries would claim part of Apple's €14bn in back taxes, says Donohoe

Oil and gas drill ban bill 'running out of time'

New EU Competition Commissioner must take on US tech giants, says ISME


Lifestyle

Ask Audrey: 'I'm pretending to be from Monkstown, but I'm really just a wan from Turners Cross'

Six questions from a first-time viewer of MasterChef

Scene and Heard: This week's entertainment news

Rose Williams is revved up and ready to fire in Curfew

More From The Irish Examiner