Belfast Telegraph

North-South body 'should have powers beefed up'

By John Downing

The current North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) should have its powers increased to manage all border issues - including trade - after Brexit.

This is the key recommendation by experts in a new report to the European Parliament.

The NMSC was set up under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to promote cross-border co-operation in six areas - but has very limited powers.

It has six implementation bodies that ensure a common approach in various areas of cooperation. But observers say the structure isn't used to its full potential, having a broad mandate but not the powers to develop real north-south co-operation.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes has welcomed the move by the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee.

He said it is logical that the NSMC should be beefed up and put to work on a vital issue for all the island of Ireland.

"The Irish border remains a sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. Real and tangible solutions need to be found to ensure that we get firm commitments on protecting the Good Friday Agreement and making sure there is no hard border," Mr Hayes said.

"Giving the NSMC more power is entirely sensible. Mutual cooperation already exists in areas such as energy, health and education. But there has never been a need to have strict regulatory oversight of all-island cooperation."

Belfast Telegraph

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