European parliament votes to protect border funding in event of no-deal Brexit

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Border funding has been secured.

The European Parliament has today (Wednesday, March 13) voted to continue EU funding for cross-border projects on the island of Ireland, even in the case of a no-deal Brexit. It involves Peace and INTERREG programmes, fisheries, transport and Erasmus.

Speaking following the decision MEP, Mairead McGuinness, said while Ireland and the EU want the UK to leave  with the Withdrawal Agreement, yesterday's (Tuesday's) vote in the House of Commons demonstrates again the urgent need to prepare for all outcomes.

"Today in the European Parliament we have voted to maintain funding for EU cross-border programmes, including the PEACE IV Programme and INTERREG UK-Ireland (Ireland-Northern Ireland-Scotland). This will apply to the current EU funding period until the end of 2020,” she said. 

“These programmes have been an essential support for ensuring a lasting peace in Northern Ireland and enabling cooperation across the border – a task that is made more urgent and more difficult arising from Brexit. Maintaining these programmes provides certainty that EU support for peace on the island of Ireland will continue regardless of the outcome of Brexit.”

 The MEP said fisheries is one of the areas where the UK wants to take back full control as soon as possible.  “The measures we have adopted today will help to mitigate the impact for Irish and EU fishers. They will be eligible for compensation under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to off-set some of the impact if UK waters are closed to EU fishermen in a no-deal scenario. Up to €1.1bn would be available in the 8 worst-affected member states.

"We have also voted to amend the Regulation on the Sustainable Management of the External Fleets – which offers to extend current arrangements with the UK until the end of 2019, based on fishing quotas agreed in December. This is dependent on the UK offering reciprocal arrangements. Member states would also be able to negotiate ‘quota exchanges’ with the UK, and about 1000 of these side deals currently exist between the UK and member states."

Ms McGuinness said today's votes are also important to maintain some transport links with the UK, which will be so important to many businesses and people in Ireland. “We have measures on basic air connectivity, basic road freight connectivity, and basic cross-border rail connectivity."

She said students who are currently completing Erasmus programmes in the UK – and UK students on Erasmus in the EU – will be able to complete their studies. “Contingency measures for social security coordination will enable those who exercised their right to free movement within the Union before the withdrawal date, maintain their social security entitlements based on facts and events that occurred and periods of insurance, (self) employment or residence that were completed before the withdrawal date, when the UK was a member state of the EU.”

In relation to Peace and INTERREG funding in November 2017 Mairead McGuinness  co-hosted a showcase for the PEACE and INTERREG programmes in Brussels, attended by representatives from Counties Monaghan and Donegal and also from Northern Ireland. They had the opportunity to meet with EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, and other policymakers in Brussels and tell them about the projects in the border region, and they underlined the importance of the work continuing.

“Border county citizens are very aware of the positive impact that EU funding has had on the region in terms of peace, reconciliation, rebuilding infrastructure and supporting communities,” the MEP said today.  “There have been many wonderful local projects, funded under the EU PEACE and INTERREG programmes. Yet there is more to do. The need to continue peace and reconciliation work is even more acute in the context of Brexit.”

The MEP said there remains a need for deeper reconciliation work between divided communities, programmes to increase tolerance and respect for one another and reduce sectarianism and racism. “EU funding has, and will continue to be, an essential support in ensuring lasting peace in Northern Ireland,” the Midlands North West MEP said.