Why £15bn bridge to Scotland could be the answer to Brexit conundrum
A bridge linking Northern Ireland and Scotland could unlock the Brexit border logjam and could be made possible by funding from around the world, according to a former head of the European Commission in Belfast.
Jane Morrice, a former Deputy Speaker in the Stormont Assembly, said the funding possibilities are "vast" and claimed the project might prove too tempting to turn down for Chinese private investors in particular.
In an article today she writes that it was a surprise when DUP leader Arlene Foster urged support for a campaign to build it.
- Jane Morrice: Bridge to Scotland an option that would literally override sea border and tie islands together
"The DUP could have come up with what might be seen as a stroke of genius," she claimed.
"The ingenious element is that a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland would literally override any 'border' in the Irish Sea.
"The political and symbolic importance of such a link can't be underestimated, and the economic, social and cultural advantages could be significant."
The cost has been estimated at £15 billion.
Ms Morrice says that various sources of investment could be explored.
"In terms of funding, the range of possibilities are vast. Apart from the obvious support from London and Dublin, EU sources could include the cross-border INTERREG programme, the European Investment Bank, the TransEuropean Network and HORIZON 2020. The EU PEACE programme could be another valuable source because the bridge would still respect the Good Friday Agreement by promoting peace and prosperity in the region. Private funds would also be a must, and China a clear contender. With Chinese interest in access to new markets, investment for the world's most prolific bridge-builders could prove irresistible." Former Economy Minister, Strangford DUP MLA Simon Hamilton, reaffirmed the party's position that a solid connection between Northern Ireland and Scotland could be a catalyst for economic growth between the two regions.
He said: "The DUP made the proposal of a feasibility study into a tunnel or enclosed bridge across the North Channel to the Scottish coastline in our 2015 manifesto.
"Some people are foolishly using Brexit to build a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, a border which the Prime Minister stated she could not accept and which would damage the constitutional integrity of the UK.
"There is growing support for our manifesto proposal.
"It's time to be progressive and forward thinking."
Earlier this year Ards and North Down Borough Council agreed to engage with a Scottish Government feasibility study of the idea of a bridge, with Donaghadee mooted as a potential starting point on this side of the Irish Sea.