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Stormont 'must engage fully' with academics on impact of Brexit

Published 23/11/2016

Cathal McCall wants the Northern Ireland Assembly to
Cathal McCall wants the Northern Ireland Assembly to "engage fully" with academics on the implications of Brexit

Academics have expressed disappointment that the Stormont Executive has not called on their expertise to examine the implications of Brexit.

Cathal McCall, a professor in European politics at Queen's University Belfast, said he was still awaiting an invitation from Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to discuss the fallout from the UK's vote to leave the European Union.

He said: "We hope that the Northern Ireland Assembly does start to engage fully with academics, the business community and the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) as well because it is a vitally important issue."

Prof McCall was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster, which is conducting an inquiry into the future of the land border with the Republic of Ireland.

He said: "I am very disappointed.

"I have commended this House for having the previous session and now you are having another one. The House of Lords has had one, the European Committee there even came over to Parliament Buildings to hold a session so that we could attend, which was very gratifying."

He said he had received invitations from private sector companies keen to find out how they could be affected by border changes.

"Private sector actors are contacting us inviting us to their palatial establishments to talk about the implications because for them they are caught in a state of flux, particularly multinationals, in terms of wanting to develop their outposts in Belfast, Strabane and Londonderry," he added.

Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon said the concerns were unlikely to go unnoticed by officials.

She said: "Since the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said publicly he is very keen to meet businessmen and all the rest, I am sure it will not go unnoticed from this committee that there is a desire among academics and Queen's and elsewhere to meet."

There was also discussion around the potential for special status or bespoke arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Professor Dagmar Schiek, professor of EU law at Queen's, who plans to discuss Brexit with representatives from the German government, said there was an awareness the border was a "sensitive" issue.

However, she cautioned that achieving special status would not be easy.

"This will be a very difficult feat to achieve. But a special status which tries to avoid the substantive borders should at least be looked at. It's worthwhile to do this."

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