European Parliament plans trade mission to Belfast

Sean Kelly

VETERAN politician and MEP Seán Kelly, who is first vice-chair of EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly, has confirmed he will lead the European Parliament's International Trade Committee on a fact-finding mission to Belfast next month.

The visit by MEPs on October 13/14 will include a range of meetings with MLAs, business representatives and civil society.

The Ireland South MEP, who is a former GAA president, said: “We need to dial down the political rhetoric and listen to the perspectives of those living and working in Northern Ireland. It is essential that we understand the issues of most concern to people and businesses.

“A change of leadership in the UK government offers a window of opportunity to reset the EU-UK relationship. Now is the time to place relations back on more stable footing and resolve the ongoing dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“I urge the new Prime Minister to come back to the negotiating table with a new, more constructive approach. Of course, we have said this before, so all eyes will be on the approach Prime Minister Truss decides to take," he said.

He said that the past few months have seen relations go from bad to worse between Brussels and London, adding “The disruption and uncertainty caused by tensions over the Protocol is harming business and trade between the EU and UK, and on the island of Ireland in particular.”

Mr Kelly insisted solutions do exist to address the difficulties raised with the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“What we need is genuine and constructive engagement from the UK. If the political will is shown from the UK government, the EU will be ready to find solutions.”

As one of the European Parliament's lead MEP on relations with the UK, Mt Kelly works to ensure that the perspectives of those on the island of Ireland are heard in the Parliament.

He said: “The ongoing dispute surrounding the Protocol is at the centre of the EU-UK relationship. Yet too often we find Northern Ireland is at the centre of the discussion without its voices being given a seat at the table.

“With Stormont frozen, elevating Northern Irish voices to the European level is more important than ever," he stressed.