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Brexit secretary should visit border region

Brexit talks are expected to step up a gear next week when EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier travels to London to meet Theresa May and David Davis ahead of the next round of discussions in Brussels.

Mr Barnier said he wants to discuss 'the UK's orderly withdrawal' with the British prime minister on Monday but it is clear the two sides remain far apart in terms of specific arrangements.

Mrs May is coming under pressure from within her own party to provide clarity on her own position on trade amid concerns from Brexiteers that the government is heading for the softest of Brexits.

The uncertainty over Brexit is undoubtedly a major issue for the economy as businesses draw up plans based on very little firm information.

It is an unacceptable situation compounded by forecasts that predict difficult financial times ahead depending on the various Brexit outcomes.

In particular, a leaked British government analysis this week painted a gloomy picture of what may lie ahead for people living in Northern Ireland.

According to the 'EU Exit Analysis - Cross Whitehall Briefing' document drawn up for the Department for Exiting the EU, Northern Ireland, along with the north east and west Midlands in England, would be the three regions facing the biggest falls in economic performance.

The analysis found that even if the UK was able to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement, estimated growth would be down 5 per cent over the next 15 years.

However, if the UK retained access to the single market the loss would be just two per cent.

It is true that long term economic forecasts are not always the most reliable but it has to be remembered that this is a document drawn up for the British government and will make for uncomfortable reading ahead of the latest round of negotiations.

Developments over the coming weeks will be closely watched in relation to the government's commitments on a soft border.

This was a point raised by Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, who visited Derry and Donegal this week, meeting business leaders on both sides of the border.

He said there should be no rowing back on the agreements made by the Tories to avoid a hard border, later tweeting that anyone ruling out a customs union with the EU should visit the Derry-Donegal area.

It is important for politicians of all shades of opinion to visit the border region, to see and hear first hand from those living and working there and gain a better understanding of the issues.

The fact that the Brexit secretary, David Davis, has yet to travel to the border area is disappointing given his crucial role in making decisions that will directly impact on so many people.

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