Business

Newry to debate: 'Can we afford to leave Europe?'

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council chair Naomi Bailie (left) with Deborah Loughran, president of the Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade
Gary McDonald Business Editor

FORMER taoiseach Bertie Ahern is among a panel of speakers confirmed for a major business debate in Newry this Thursday - the first of its kind in the north - looking at the pros and cons of a British exit from the European Union.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council will host ‘Brexit- The Big Debate’ in the Canal Court Hotel from 9am-1pm, which is free to attend (though you must be registered at orla@newry.com).

The potential impact on Northern Ireland of the UK exiting Europe following the proposed referendum in 2017 cannot be underestimated, and Newry will articulate the arguments for and against, and focus on the impact of a Brexit on the peace process, the future economic prosperity of the region and border control with the Republic.

There will be a keynote address from Daithi O Ceallaigh, former ambassador to the UK, UN and WTO, alongside panellists including Mr Ahern and Labour’s shadow minister for Europe Pat McFadden. The debate will be hosted by Len O’Hagan, chairman of NI Water.

Councillor Naomi Bailie, chairperson of Newry Council, said: "A conference of this calibre in Newry will really kickstart the discussion about the impact of a Brexit decision on the north of Ireland and across these islands.

"We believe there is a lack of understanding about how detrimental an exit would be, particularly for the north of Ireland, as we would be the only region with a land border with an EU member.

"It would severely affect civic society, trade and free movement particularly in border regions where we have many cross border workers, cross border businesses and cooperation between organisations.

“While we are opposed to an exit we welcome the opportunity to get a full understanding of the arguments for and against during a comprehensive debate with some of the best informed politicians and commentators in Britain and Ireland.”

Deborah Loughran, president of Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade, added: “This debate is essential for business and civic leaders, politicians, students, educationalists, economists and anyone who has a general interest in the future growth and prosperity of Northern Ireland."

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