Commenting on a European Committee of the Regions’ report on the consequences of Brexit on trade and the economy in the EU27 regions and cities today, Michael Murphy, Head of the Irish delegation in the CoR and member of Ireland’s Tipperary County Council gave this short interview to the EPP-CoR.

Why do you think that there needs to be a focus on the consequences of Brexit on EU regions and cities?

The CoR’s Territorial Impact Assessment (TIA) exercise is extremely interesting and valuable because, contrary to many studies focused on the national level, it looks at the impact on local and regional levels and enables local decision makers and citizens to have a better and more precise understanding of the consequences of Brexit on their territory. A key finding is that there will be no winner from Brexit. Local and regional authorities are already aware of that: 2/3 of respondents to the CoR survey anticipate negative impact of Brexit in their region.

Both the EU and the UK have recognised that Ireland is in a unique situation and that any solution will need to be fully informed by the special circumstances on the island of Ireland. What does this mean for Irish regions?

After the UK, Irish regions will be the most impacted by Brexit as they are the most exposed to trade-relation effects. Some parts of Ireland will also be particularly impacted because of the high-share of employment in the primary sector. One of the maps show an even greater impact for the South East of Ireland, where I come from. Regarding the tertiary sector, because of the high-share of employment in finance, real estate, business and science, Brexit will have a higher impact on all Irish regions compared to other European regions.

The social impact is probably the most visible for Ireland because of the border issue. On top of the impact a hard border would have on trade, it would also prevent the daily commute of tens of thousands of workers and students and threaten the peace process. 2018 is the year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement but it turns out to be also the year we have to fight to preserve it and the peace it brought. Brexit could also mean losing precious financial resources such as the PEACE programme created in 1995 to foster cooperation and support peace and reconciliation on both sides of the border.

Taking the findings of this study on board and in view of your opinion on “The European Commission Report on Competition Policy 2016”, what do you think can be done to minimise the negative consequences?

Despite the difficulty in assessing precisely what the consequences will be, it is already possible to anticipate some of the effects of Brexit on European regions.

Some measures or actions can be taken already to try and counter the negative impact of Brexit:

  • As proposed in the CoR opinion that you mention, “an expansion of General Block Exemption Regulations and a temporary relaxation or suspension of state aid rules for certain industries” could be put in place. Such measures would help the businesses most affected by Brexit to navigate its consequences and could soften the blow.
  • Our previous CoR workshop, in February this year, also highlighted the need to set up interregional cooperation and benchmarking, to share information and pool resources. It is already the case in the CoR with the interregional group on Brexit that was officially created in January and is composed of 29 members from seven Member States. We will hold the first meeting this Friday, alongside the CoR plenary session where I will share the results of the TIA with the other group members.

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