Belfast Telegraph

EU funds 'secure' for cross-border projects in Ireland

By Eamon Sweeney

Financial aid from the European Union for cross-border projects looks set to continue after Brexit, according to the President of the European Commission.

Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament that he could see "no more important use" of the EU budget than maintaining the peace process on the island of Ireland.

Both Northern Ireland and the Republic have benefited from European funding packages. Border areas in particular have received millions of pounds.

However, the current stream of finance is due to cease in 2020 - around a year after the UK leaves the EU.

Mr Juncker said: "This is an unconditional European commitment. This is what the commission will deliver with our proposal for the next multi-annual financial framework in May."

In effect this could mean that peace funding could be available until 2025 at least.

Mr Juncker's comments were given a cautious welcome.

Despite being pro-Brexit, DUP MEP Diane Dodds tweeted her approval.

"Positive commitment by @JunckerEU confirming 'unconditional' plans for Northern Ireland peace funds in new EU budget cycle. This is welcome," she said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the announcement was "yet one more reason why Northern Ireland cannot afford to lose our relationship with the European Union".

"Peace monies, infrastructural development and access to the biggest trading block on the planet are only a few of the reasons why people in the North wisely voted to remain in the EU," he said.

However, Alliance Party spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Farry MLA said there needs to be a more comprehensive approach on continuing EU funding here in the wake of Britain's departure from Europe. "Northern Ireland is very heavily dependent upon European funding. While continued access to Peace and Interreg monies would clearly be welcome, the funding debate needs to include both structural funds and access to competitive funds," said Dr Farry.

Belfast Telegraph

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