Belfast Telegraph

Belfast City Council’s new Brexit Committee could have first meeting in August

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy Reporter

Belfast City Council’s newly established Brexit Committee will have its inaugural meeting in August this year at the earliest, it can be revealed.

The Brexit Committee was previously proposed at BCC’s Strategic Policy and Resources (SPR) Committee in March and ratified by the council on April 9.

SPR members will tomorrow go over the final details of the new committee, including allocation of seats and positions of responsibility, according to tomorrow’s briefing documents.

The news comes amid Brexit chaos, with Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar raising the prospect of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal if UK government infighting continues.

First proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Claire Canavan and seconded by Alliance representative Emmet McDonough Brown, the idea of a Brexit committee is similar to those which have been set up recently by large businesses on the Island of Ireland.

In March last year, Newry-based pharma giants Norbrook revealed it had set up such a committee to handle the potential effects the UK's exit from the EU could have on the business.

Councillor Canavan’s original motion stated that “the council immediately establish a formal Brexit Standing Committee, made up of Elected Members, with appropriate officer support, to undertake all necessary work required to bring forward a report with recommendations to explore the impact of Brexit on Belfast and its citizens”.

More than £108,000 will be reallocated from the council’s Special Responsibility Allowance for the remainder of this council term, according to the documents.

The Brexit Committee will be responsible for “monitoring and reviewing the financial, resource or operational impact upon the council and the district as a result of the UK’s leaving the European Union and for making recommendations to council on such issues”.

Agenda items normally going to other committees relating to Brexit will be referred to the new committee for consideration and decision.

Allocated via the ‘Greatest Remainder methodology’, the committee will be made up of 20 members: seven Sinn Fein, five DUP, three Alliance, two UUP and SDLP, and one PUP.

The Chair and Deputy Chair will be selected using the D’Hont method, giving first choice to Sinn Fein and second choice to the DUP.

There is less than a year left of the current council term, so the Chair and Deputy Chair will only sit for its remaining months.

“If the amended Standing Orders are presented to the June Council meeting and ratified then they would need to be confirmed at the July Council meeting, the earliest time frame for the inaugural meeting of the newly established Brexit Committee would be August 2018,” according to the briefing paper.

This means the committee’s first meeting could be just two months before the Brexit negotiations deadline set by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Mr Barnier previously stated that negotiations must be completed before the end of October to give the 27 EU countries time to sign off the deal.

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