British exit (Brexit) from the European Union would bring economic and political instability that would be disastrous for these islands.
The European Union has been a cornerstone of establishing lasting peace in Ireland and will be a pivotal influence in the prosperity process that must now follow decades of violence induced stagnation.
Our biggest challenge in rebuilding prosperity is to create the political stability on which prosperity can be built. Uncertainty about Britain’s future membership of the European Union undermines the political stability necessary for prosperity.
Europe created the space for much better relations and more business to flourish between Ireland and Britain in the decades since both countries joined the EU, in the early 70’s.
In Northern Ireland there is a need to start reflecting on the unique benefits that membership of the European Union has enabled in terms of strengthening peace and stability on this island, and between these islands.
The EU eliminated the border, as an economic barrier, for all practical intents and purposes, allowing freedom of movement, travel and work North and South. The single market created opportunities and helped our small businesses export successfully. Through the Special EU Programmes Body, better known as the PEACE funds, Northern Ireland has received extensive funding to build and fortify our community infrastructures. And, of course, Europe has facilitated significant levels of foreign direct investment.
From a community relations point of view – within the EU, the Irish/British differences and antagonisms in Northern Ireland can be seen as petty in the overall wider community setting. While outside the EU, the stark divide could possibly loom large again with Westminster once more being the principal political barometer rather than the wider EU.
In the North, we’ve needed to be able to look outside ourselves to a neutral place where all our concerns can be looked at benignly; and the EU facilitated this. Even in the most antagonistic of times, unionists and nationalists, unable to speak meaningfully or constructively within Northern Ireland, were able to agree policies in the European Parliament which benefited Northern Ireland. That can be seen most clearly in relation to agriculture.
Speaking quite simply, a British Exit from the EU – Brexit – would spell economic disaster for these islands, and nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland.
This is not a question of nationalist against unionist. It is a matter of maintaining confidence; a matter of stability against instability, certainty or dreaded uncertainty. This question transcends all our traditional disagreements and divisions – we need to find an