THE FEARS for the future of those living and working along the Fermanagh border were laid bare to the Brexit secretary when he visited Derrylin last Friday.
Stephen Barclay MP, who is currently the man in charge of the UK’s exit from the EU, visited the Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) plant on the Fermanagh border last week ahead of yet another vote in the House of Commons on the government’s Withdrawal Agreement. He was accompanied by James Cleverly MP.
Mr Barclay said he had chosen to visit Fermanagh to hear from businesses and the community and “to see the practical issues.”
“Here is a very good illustration of a business that straddles the border, that has high frequency movements, that has staff from both sides of the community, that is a major employer and is of significance to the community,” he said. “It is in essence at the heart of the issues in terms of a border and how we mitigate against some of the concerns, how we ensure we abide by the Good Friday Agreement and our commitments.”
Mr Barclay spent over two hours speaking with staff at the QIH plant, and said they had made it clear to him they wanted to see the Withdrawal Agreement, with it’s border ‘backstop’, to go through. He said the prime minister Theresa May remained committed to that backstop and she had lost the support of some in her own party as result.
With Ms May already vowing to step down after next week’s vote, however, Mr Barclay was unable to give the Herald concrete assurances on a similar commitment from the next PM. He added, no matter who took the top job, both parliament and the EU Commission remained committed to avoiding a return to a hard border.
Liam McCaffrey, CEO of QIH, said the company was happy to host the visit and to have the chance to articulate the company’s concerns over Brexit.
“Our key message was that three years post the Brexit vote it is deeply worrying that we remain locked in a cycle of ongoing uncertainty that is doing little to allay this community’s concerns about the potentially devastating impact of a hard border,” said Mr McCaffrey.
He added the visitors left “with a much clearer sense of what is at stake for this community and of the need for a renewed sense of urgency in delivering a meaningful breakthrough centred around a soft border.”
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