Belfast Telegraph

Council's Brexit Committee could be 'squawking shop', councillor warns

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy reporter

The first meeting of Belfast City Council’s Brexit Committee could turn into a “squawking shop”, a City Hall representative has warned.

Ulster Unionist Cllr Jeffrey Dudgeon MBE was speaking on Wednesday following a chaotic few weeks in London, Belfast, Brussels and Dublin over the current state of Brexit.

Cllr Dudgeon said a ‘No Deal’ scenario would result in ‘great difficulty’ on both sides of the border and BCC’s Brexit Committee, due to meet next month, could end up “worse than a talking shop”.

“It could end up more of a squawking shop,” he said on Wednesday evening.

“All of the representatives on the committee have completely different views, however we can agree on some things.

“Time is against us also, but one way or another someone is going to have to face the music, but I’m sceptical about the about the whole Committee idea to be honest - if Sinn Fein wanted to influence things, they should be at Westminster.”

The Committee will have its inaugural meeting on August 9, just a few months before the October Brexit deadline set by the EU, where it is thought an official deal will be on the table.

It will be chaired by Sinn Fein representative Seanna Walsh, with the DUP’s Guy Spence as Deputy.

Also on the committee will be DUP councillor and former NI Vote Leave chief Lee Reynolds, who last month denied he directed DUP activities with controversial data mining firm Aggregate IQ while seconded on to the campaign group, which would have been against Electoral Commission rules.

Alliance’s Emmet McDonough-Brown, Nuala McAllister and Kate Nicholl will also be on the Brexit committee, in addition to four Sinn Fein reps (including group leader Ciaran Beattie) and SDLP group leader Tim Attwood, among others.

Cllr Kate Nicholl said she was optimistic of the potential Brexit work to be done at City Hall.

“Look, we’re not going to solve anything in the wider scheme of things,” she said.

“But I am optimistic that even if we’re just articulating the concerns of Belfast and it’s people, then that will be something positive amidst all the chaos.”

On Friday Prime Minister Theresa May will be visiting Northern Ireland and it is understood she will deliver a speech in Belfast reaffirming her commitment to no Hard Border on the island post-Brexit, and her commitment to the Union.

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