Fine Gael MEPs call for special EU envoy for the north

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly
Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly

THE NORTH should have a its own special EU envoy to ensure regular dialogue between Brussels and the region's political representatives, according to Fine Gael's European Parliament delegation.

Seán Kelly, the party's group leader in the Brussels and Strasbourg parliaments, said it "makes complete sense" for Europe to have official lines of communication with politicians to avoid what he termed "major issues" arising from the application of the Stormont brake.

The call, which is supported by Mr Kelly's colleagues Frances Fitzgerald, Deirdre Clune, Maria Walsh and Colm Markey, comes just days after the EU and UK government formally adopted the Windsor Framework.

The revised post-Brexit trading arrangements reaffirm the north's place in the EU Single Market, with the region benefitting from bespoke provisions that give it direct access to both the EU trading bloc and the UK internal market.

"The unique historical, legal and social circumstances on the island of Ireland, with part of the island under the legal jurisdiction of the UK, meant that Brexit was always going to fundamentally impact Northern Ireland in particular”, Mr Kelly said.

"We have already seen increases in investments in Northern Ireland as one of the benefits of the EU single-market and UK internal market access making it an attractive option for many companies – I hear from business leaders all the time about the opportunities this arrangement has for Northern Ireland and the possibility of enhanced economic prosperity should be highlighted at every turn."

The MEPs have backed the Windsor Framework, describing it as "a positive step forward in EU-UK relations" that will significantly reduce checks and paperwork.

Mr Kelly said the framework's Stormont brake mechanism enabling 30 MLAs to flag concerns about changes to EU rules that apply in Northern Ireland, was "designed to be used in the most exceptional circumstances".

"Therefore it makes complete sense that we should have direct and official lines of communication with representatives in Northern Ireland so that we avoid any major issues," he said.

The Fine Gael MEP said the type of Brexit chosen by the UK government made it inevitable that "some sort of democratic deficit would exist in Northern Ireland thereafter".

"A special representative from the EU would help reduce this deficit by engaging with Northern Ireland's political representatives and public officials to explain upcoming EU legislation and listen to any concerns", Mr Kelly said.

There was no comment from the EU.