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SDLP backs calls for EU funds to help soften Brexit in Republic

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

The SDLP has backed calls for extra EU funds for Ireland to help soften the impact of Brexit

It comes after the Dublin government’s chief whip Joe McHugh said Ireland should be repaid by the European Investment Bank for the critical role it played when the Euro was “on the brink” during the worst days of the financial crisis.

Mr McHugh said the cash could be used to help his government meet commitments it had made to fund infrastructure projects north of the border, including the A5 upgrade.

The Donegal TD and minister of state at the Department of Culture also warned that the peace process was unfinished and that the UK’s bid to break ties with Brussels could setback the political and economic progress of the past 20 years.

Mr McHugh’s is the latest senior Fine Gael politician to make a forthright statement about the impact of Brexit on Ireland.

In recent days Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has voiced his concerns about the lack of clarity around the UK’s Brexit plans.

During his visit to Belfast on Friday the Fine Gael leader proposed “practical solutions” to address the problems Brexit is expected to create for the border.

Mr McHugh said the EU needed to be reminded constantly of its responsibilities around the peace process, and warned any hardening of the border would be a retrograde step.

He said Brexit had “cast a shadow” over the peace process.

“Too many people have looked away from Northern Ireland and thought ‘that’s sorted’ and that’s a dangerous position,” he told The Irish Times.

“While respecting the British people’s decision to leave the European Union and all the reasons for that decision, one thing I would ask from British politicians is to consider the prospect of going back to the dark days that are still fresh in so many of our memories.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the British government’s “slow drift towards a hard Brexit and a hard border” posed an immediate threat to Ireland’s economy.

He said the SDLP had already proposed a “border bank structural fund” to channel money into cross-border development and sectors expected to be hit particularly hard by Brexit.

 

"We have already proposed that the 'loans to Ireland' repayments could be used to help finance the border bank structural fund to stimulate, among other things, key infrastructure projects and economic development,” he said.

 

Sinn Féin meanwhile, has called on Mr Varadkar’s government “to act in the national interest” and secure special designated status for the north within the EU.

The Waterford and Sinn Féin Brexit spokesman David Cullinane welcomed the taoiseach’s recent commitment for the need to avoid a hard border and to keep the free movement of people and goods post-Brexit, on a par with current arrangements.

“Brexit and the imposition of an EU Frontier across Ireland has the potential to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and the progress of the past 20 years, but also the future economic prosperity of our Island,” he said.

“Brexit was always about the needs of the Tory party – its impact on Ireland was never considered.”

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