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Council to champion calls for unfettered access before ‘virtual Parliament’ inquiry hearing

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The Chief Executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Anne Donaghy, is among a high-level panel of economic, agricultural, retail and public sector experts due to give evidence today to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee inquiry into Unfettered Access of goods transportation post-Brexit.

The purpose of the inquiry is to scrutinise customs arrangements for goods moving in both directions between Northern Ireland and Great Britain under the revised Northern Ireland Protocol.

This includes import-export requirements and customs checks, processes and declarations.

The hearing, which takes place this afternoon, will form part of the Westminster Government’s ‘virtual Parliament’ process, which has come into force as lockdown restrictions continue during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Donaghy will be joined on the virtual evidence panel by Ulster Farmers’ Union Chief Executive, Wesley Aston, Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, and Professor David Widdowson Chief Executive at the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies.

Speaking ahead of the inquiry, Anne Donaghy said:

“The findings of this Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee hearing will help to form the eventual out-workings of the trading relationship between Northern Ireland and Great Britain from the end of 2020 onwards.

“As such, it is essential that we make the strongest possible case for allowing a seamless operation for our goods and foods to travel west-east and east-west, as pledged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this year.

“Given that Larne Port is recognised as the gateway to Northern Ireland, and a key strategic route for the transportation of essential supplies, it is critical that the unfettered access which the Northern Ireland Protocol provides for, is delivered upon.

“The vital importance of Northern Ireland’s ports, including Larne, was recognised only last week with the announcement of a £17M funding injection by the Department of Infrastructure and the Treasury to allow the continuation of those arrangements as we work through the Coronavirus crisis.

“We will be reiterating our calls for the Westminster Government to listen to the concerns of the Northern Ireland economy and ensure that the protections contained in the Northern Ireland Protocol are delivered upon.”

Council’s Borough Growth Committee Chair, Cllr Gregg McKeen, supports those calls.

“It is essential that there continues to be unfettered, efficient access between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in order to protect our wider economy”, Cllr McKeen continued.

“As a Council, we are delighted that our Chief Executive has been given this very important opportunity to engage with the Westminster Government on the critical need for seamless trade to be maintained with the UK Single Market.”

Alderman Billy Ashe MBE added: “I welcome any measures to ensure businesses across Northern Ireland continue to have unfettered access to the UK single market and that there is free flow of goods within that market.

“This is a once in a generation event and I am fully supportive of the Council’s Chief Executive in playing a key role in the future success of our economy.”

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