Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Quitting EU a severe threat to major projects

By Rachel Martin

A Brexit would put the funding for York Street Interchange at risk, a body representing construction firms in Northern Ireland has claimed.

The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) said the project was among several major public infrastructure projects here at risk of missing out on funding if the UK left the EU.

While day-to-day maintenance spending on roads here is unlikely to be affected by a vote to leave on June 23, it could affect the viability of large cross-border projects in the future.

According to the Department for Regional Development (DRD), the York Street Interchange project is estimated to cost between £125m and £165m.

As a key arterial route completing the link between Belfast and Dublin, the scheme is expected to draw a significant amount of EU funding. It's understood that this could account for as much as 40% of the project's total cost.

The CEF said it has not yet take a stance on the issue of European membership, because the views of its members vary.

But it warned that several major projects could face difficulties if the decision was taken to leave the EU.

Managing director John Armstong said that many of its smaller members also had concerns about the levels of bureaucracy in the EU.

But he said that should the UK leave, many large public sector construction projects could be derailed by a loss of European funding.

"We are consulting with our members at the moment, however we are conscious that a significant number of major infrastructure projects are heavily dependant on European Union funding," he said.

"Because these projects are seen as cross-border major arterial routes, they have been eligible for European funding."

Mr Armstrong added that the failure of large infrastructure projects here would be a huge setback to the construction industry at a time when recovery is still slow.

"If we don't spend on infrastructure we will not be able to attract inward investment," he said.

European funding contributes millions of pounds to Northern Ireland infrastructure improvements every year.

In July, €14.4m (£11.25m) of EU funding was set aside to upgrade the Coleraine to Londonderry rail line.

Work on the Knockmore to Lurgan rail line also received around €9.7m (£7.58m).

The year before, £2.8m of European funding was allocated towards a transport hub which is planned to be built on the site of the existing Great Victoria Street bus and train station.

Belfast Telegraph