#Brexit from the business view of a border city – #EUDebateNI in Derry

EUDebateNI Derry audience and kidsIntroducing the fourth in a short series of EUDebateNI events this morning in Derry~Londonderry, Conor Houston explained that while the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building takes a neutral on the decision of whether the UK remains or leaves EU, it does want to encourage debate.

Business journalist Naomi McMullan hosted the debate said there was a lot of information about the EU referendum but very little clarity. She characterised the debate as “a clash of visions”.

02 Angela McGowanDanske Bank’s economist Angela McGowan was open that she was “a stayer” and recognised that view in many of the bank’s big business customers. Economists want to stay because of the uncertainty. However she quoted philosopher John Stuart Mill:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that

Highlighting competing and conflicting studies she warned against believing anyone who said they had “definitive” figures. There are many assumptions in Brexit economic models to be sure if the figures truly add up.

indirect benefitsShe walked the audience through direct and indirect benefits of the EU, quantified the level of imports and exports, highlighted that the EU was a big FDI partner (both in and out of the UK) and spoke about the impact on labour markers and the EU’s history of building rights for workers.

While agriculture only accounts for 1.1% of the NI economy but feeds [Ed – pun intended?] into the agri-food manufacturing sector and food security. Brexit would result in depreciation of UK land assets (since the land-linked subsidy would be removed) and have a knock on impact on the cred worthiness of marginal firms.

She also noted contradictions in Boris Johnson’s desire for tighter control of UK borders while being content for NI to have an open border for ROI.

Angela finished with the view of the Danske Bank Markets (Copenhagan) who judge that “Brexit is a lose-lose game for both the UK and the EU”.

Brian Doherty03 Brian Doherty looked at the impact of Brexit on legislation and legal frameworks. [You can also hear his more detailed comments at the Brexit legal conference on Friday 26 February.] It would be a huge job to comb through legislation across the UK to ensure that Europe-originated law that needs to stay will still work and can be upheld in the absence of EU institutions/courts.

He also gave examples of practical cases where EU law and courts have been used to introduce freedoms (and restrictions) in NI: RUC women officer’s right to carry weapons, the elimination of the Irish Government’s 48 Hour Rule (which protected rights of NI traders).

04 Gavin KilleenPresident of the Londonderry Chamber Gavin Killeen gave a local business perspective. Derry is the only city in the UK which trades in two currencies. [Ed – Newry might argue against that!] He argued that the impact of a Brexit would be “more acute in the North West than in the rest of Northern Ireland and the UK”.

The terms of trade would change, businesses will close and jobs will be lost … the impact on the economy in the North West would be significant.

Of course there would be new export opportunities to non-EU countries that could counteract the loss of trade with EU. But NI has little success exporting outside the EU at present.

Gavin spoke of the benefit of having access to highly skilled migrant workers.

We allow our young people to travel around Europe and gain experience … to come back again.

05 Daithi O CeallaighDáithí O’Ceallaigh was the former Irish Ambassador to the UK and the co-editor of Britain and Europe: The Endgame — An Irish Perspective. Fundamentally he believes that the UK remaining in the EU is good for NI, ROI, UK and the EU. Additionally, security in the world would be much better off if the UK remaining in.

He played down the likelihood of swift trade negotiations Where will the UK find enough people in the UK capable of negotiating all those agreements in order to protect UK trade?

In 2000/1, over 50% of illegal Nigerian migrants were in the Republic of Ireland. “Not one of those Nigerians arrived directly from Nigeria” he said. “Every one of them came through another European country … most from ‘a border not very far away from us’” [ie, the UK].

Dáithi suggested that Immigration posts on the border would be likely, alongside with Customs posts … which would do damage to relationships between north and south built up over last 20 years.

He concluded by noting that if Scotland went independent on the back of UK leaving Europe, the UK Parliament would be (even more) dominated by English MPs. Is that good for Northern Ireland?

06 Susan Hayes CulletonSusan HayesCulleton gave a high energy talk that focussed on some of the arguments for Brexit. She challenged the promise that the UK would be able to make its own deals with growing economies across the world unencumbered by other EU countries. The UK certainly wouldn’t be able (legally) to make bilateral agreements with individual EU countries. And the UK does more trade with Germany than the whole Commonwealth. She challenged whether the UK would remain the fifth largest economy in the world.

07 Jim AllisterYou could have heard a pin drop as Jim Allister got up to speak. The TUV leader amd MLA began by criticising the “diet of fear you have been fed this morning”. “Unadulterated propaganda” showing the depths that the ‘stay’ campaign has to delve.

What a poor reflection on organisers to serve you Europhile after Europhile … Where’s the balance Londonderry Chamber of Commerce? It isn’t here. Why did you not have a Euroskeptic economist?

Jim continued by calling it “an unmitigated attempt not to get balance or give any insight into a rational debate, but to ram down all our throats in an unquestioning away the sheer propaganda of the Stay campaign”.

He then moved onto debating arguments that had made.

We’re told that ‘poor us’ Northern Ireland couldn’t survive without EU handouts. Every single penny of it is our own money coming back to us, a fraction of what we pay in.

He called it ‘boomerang’ money. He said that the UK’s trade deficit with EU is £59bn (£150m a day): “They sell us more than we sell them”.

Liberate us to trade freely with the rest of the world. The EU in GDP terms is the one part of the world in decline. Over recent decades, Europe’s share of GDP has been woefully in decline, the growth is elsewhere. Yet it is to that moribund area of the world economy that some think we need to tie ourselves. It is by unshackling ourselves that we liberate ourselves to trade where the growth is … in the Far East and elsewhere … Our membership of the EU inhibits our current trade potential.

The EU referendum was not a parochial decision to be made, but one made across the United Kingdom.

He hypothesised that the very same people arguing to stay in the EU this morning were probably previously also in favour of joining the Euro : “Wrong then and wrong now.”

We are a great trading nation being held back by the hideous trading constraints of Europe.

The speeches over, the event moved to a Q&A with the panel of speakers. Jim Allister stood up and calmly explained that while he welcomed the opportunity to address the audience, it wasn’t a good use of his time to sit on a panel that was overwhelming Euro-phile. However, Nuala McMullan quickly crafted a solution and Jim stayed in the room and went up on stage, joined only by economist Angela McGowan.

The questions mostly came from strong ‘No’ advocates and included discussion about the recent EU/Turkey announcement and the reality of a customs on a delivery business that criss crosses the border many times a day.

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  • scepticacademic

    Why have you not reported any of Jim’s sound economic arguments re the benefits to NI of a ‘Leave’ vote? 😉

  • Ernekid

    I wish I was there to watch Jim’s baldy head get redder and redder as he listened to people who actually know what they are talking about outlining why Northern Ireland leaving the EU is a massively stupid idea that would be ruinous for the local economy. He seemed to have thrown his toys out of the pram when the overwhelming positives of Northern Ireland’s membership of the EU was made apparent

    A good rule of thumb in life is to listen to what Jim Allister says and then do the exact opposite.

  • Dominic Hendron

    A lot of uncertainty in leaving which makes me think stay in and make it work for us. Would like to hear more from unions on the issue

  • Angry Mob

    I look forward to reading about the future panels where there will be an overwhelming majority in favour of leaving in order to restore some balance to these debates.

    The IEA ran a debate last night with a two remain, two leave and the level of debate was of a much higher standard than what we have seen so far from the #EUdebateNI even if the host was pretty poor. Was Dáithí O’Ceallaigh there just to make up the numbers?

  • Dominic Hendron

    Jim long on rhetoric short on facts

  • Angry Mob

    He really is woeful. It sounds likes he’s giving a sermon.

  • Graham Parsons

    Why. Surely the panels should reflect the likely voting intentions of the electorate in N.I..

    No economist in N.I. Would ever be taken seriously again if they were to state that exit was in the best interests of the N.I. economy.

  • Angry Mob

    In the interest of a balanced debate.

    As I have said before leaving the EU does not equate leaving the single market.

  • The organisers explained the lengths they had gone to to invite and secure ‘No’ representatives, including contact with several political parties and with several ‘No’ campaigns operating in NI. It wasn’t for want of trying …

  • Graham Parsons

    You’ve said it before and it still makes no sense.

  • Angry Mob

    Your personal incredulity doesn’t make it any less true.

    Go google Norway and efta, then come back.

  • Graham Parsons
  • Angry Mob

    Ah yes authored by the impartial Will Straw, Executive Director of Britain Stronger in Europe.

    Even your hero in this piece admits “We could of course join the single market having left the EU, as Norway does…”

  • Graham Parsons

    Oh please. You aren’t seriously suggesting we could follow the now debunked Norweigan EU relationship model. Norway has to accept all rules related to the free movement of goods including the free movement of people within the EU. Britexit really is a shambles and just embarrasses itself further by pretending we’ll be economically better off outside the EU.

  • Angry Mob

    They have never debunked it, just attacked it as they see it poses the greatest danger to their little project.

    Yes they have to accept free movement of people, however they have the power to impose an emergency brake if they so wished. We don’t.

    They do pay for access, but significantly less than we do. Which I can tolerate so long as we have continued access to the single market.

    They don’t have a say at the EU, but Norway doesn’t have a say at the African Union either. They do however have veto rights at the EFTA level, can pick and choose legislation that they wish to implement.

    In addition to this they sit at the various world organisations who now make most of our laws where they have a free vote, free veto and right to abstain in addition to chairing different bodies. So they effectively have a greater say on laws and regulations that the UK is forced to implement. The UK has 1/28 of a voice represented by some EU bureaucrat.

    Norway also has the power to make it’s own trade deals which Iceland and Switzerland has done so with the likes of China. We can’t.

    Norway also maintains control of many different areas of policy which we are forced to subvert to the EU such as Fishing and agriculture.

    So there is the Norway option “debunked” for you.

    In addition the EFTA/EEA option could be the first step to reforming the single market from outside the EU and making a truly free market.

  • Graham Parsons

    Poor effort. Norway has higher immigration than the UK. And after all immigration is the real reason we are having a referendum.

  • Angry Mob

    Google Schengen Area, that might explain it.

    Immigration is not the sole reason we’re having this referendum.

  • Graham Parsons

    Good luck winning it on any other reason.

  • Angry Mob

    The economy and democracy are good reasons too.

  • Greenflag 2

    What democracy ? Cameron is PM simply because of the FPTP system which allowed him to win the election with 25% of the electoral vote and 36% of voters on the day . I doubt if theres a country in the EU where he would have won with such a small percentage of the electoral vote.

  • Angry Mob

    Should of included sovereignty as well, probably the most compelling.

    Yeah it’s not desirable but adding another layer of government isn’t how you best address a democratic deficit. Especially when it’s the EU where Juncker, Schulz and Tusk got 0% of the vote and they’re all presidents.

  • Greenflag 2

    Sovereignty is’nt what it used to be either . I’m not 100% pro EU but I can’t imagine that the reforms that are needed in the international global financial system will ever happen without EU and USA , China & Japan . As for the democratic deficit ? Best to address within the various countries of the EU including the UK where between a third and a half of voters can’t be bothered to turn out in national elections never mind elections for the EU parliament . Given current world economic dynamics -uncertainties political and economic the UK imo is better off staying in . Ireland too and even more so Northern Ireland .

  • notimetoshine

    Once again Allister like so many of the Brexit vented much in the way of rhetoric and attack yet can’t seem to make a substantive argument. For a successful barrister it was a poor performance.

    The Brexit camp needs to go its game significantly if they want to appeal to wavering voters. Clear financial and economic analysis of the situation along with a road map to Brexit and beyond.

  • Hugh Davison

    ‘They do pay for access, but significantly less than we do.’
    In reality, you in NI pay for nothing. Not only is the EU throwing money at your farmers, but Westminster is also throwing money at you.

  • Angry Mob

    The EU ‘throw’ back less money than we have already paid them.

  • Angry Mob

    You’re right that sovereignty isn’t what it used to be as we have lost so much of it to the EU.

    Only Belgium, of the entire EU has a higher turnout at the EU elections as opposed to its national elections where voting is mandatory. Luxembourg was equal as national and euro elections are held on the same day and voting is also compulsory. It’s clear the people pay less attention to EU and are much better democratically served by a more local tier of government.

    Here’s an example of how the EU implements law made by international bodies and how we don’t need it acting on our behalf.
    This is being proposed by the OECD regarding solving the issue of corporate tax avoidance. This is a law that the UK would of implemented without EU membership.

    Remaining in prevents us being an internationalist country, trading and dealing with the entire world.

  • barnshee

    It don`t suit

  • Kev Hughes

    What would those be then?

    Seriously, I would love to hear them as they are scant at present.

  • scepticacademic

    Er, sorry the 😉 symbol was supposed to indicate irony. My point being that there aren’t any, or at least he didn’t attempt to make any (as far as I could tell from the report). Bluster about unbalanced panels and general claims about how much the UK pays in or gets out designed to mask the realities from a NI perspective perhaps?

  • scepticacademic

    If you’re talking about NI (not UK as a whole) I’d be interested to see the data behind this claim.

  • Kev Hughes

    Ah! My error SA, apologies.

    Look, I wouldn’t even mind if these guys had some form of argument that they could produce some figures, projections etc. but they don’t.

    It’s also hilarious in the North that the folks that are leading the Brexit debate happen to, by and large, be the same folks who when nats say the North would be better as part of a UI then demand a fully costed and researched plan that is ‘100% unbiased’ (whatever that actually means in real life, most likely ‘your opinion doesn’t fall in line with mine 100% so you’re biased and I want to go unchallenged’).

    Sauce for the goose and so forth…

  • Greenflag 2

    “You’re right that sovereignty isn’t what it used to be as we have lost so much of it to the EU.’

    Indeed but a lot of those aspects of sovereignty may have been worth losing for some countries which had and some still have not the best record on human rights and individual freedoms and in matters of Labour legislation etc .

    Much more ‘sovereignty ” has been lost to the financial sector both domestic and international . Thanks for your OECD link but it merely highlights the difficulties that governments have in trying to prevent /avoid a recurrence of 2008 and the fact that the UK supports that prospective legislation is in itself merely self serving City of London interests .

    We all know or should know by now given whats happened in the USA , Ireland , Spain and now underway in China that these international financial institutions move so fast that before any such legislation becomes law they will not only have found an antidote but will have a dozen other ‘legal ‘ avoidances to choose from 🙁

    A ‘transactions ‘ tax on all international financial exchanges by the financial institutions and multi national corporations is the only certain way yet known that these institutions will ever be got to contribute to the ‘repair ‘ of the societal destruction they have wrought . Corporate tax avoidance /evasion is a minefield much of it being made so much easier because national governments have created taxation regimes which are basically ‘enablers ‘ . It has led to a situation in the USA whereby trillions of dollars in corporate profits are held overseas while ads on American Radio appeal for food donations for the 20% of American children in poverty .

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Remaining in prevents us being an internationalist country, trading and dealing with the entire world.’

    Does it ? How so . It doesn’t prevent Ireland which among others exports and imports from China , Japan , USA , South Africa , India , Australia and many others . If a small economy like Ireland can do this why not the UK with it’s long tradition of international trade ?

    As to Belgium – It’s an ‘invented ‘ country -nothing natural about it not dissimilar from NI apart from the fact that it’s four parts are 95% RC at least nominally/

    What is a Belgian? -indeed . Julius Caesar maintained they were the ‘bravest ‘ of all the Gauls and they did stop the Germans from probably winning WW1 . But then there would’nt have been a follow up in WW2 and then the USA would’nt have landed a man on the Moon in 1969 . The Germans might have done it by 1960 or even the UK but they were more into the sea or at sea in those days .

  • Angry Mob

    Indeed it does. Norway has control over it’s common agricultural policy, common fisheries policy, common trade policy, common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs to name a few.

    Where as the EU takes each of these areas from the UK’s remit. If we had control of common trade policy we could go and make free trade deals with the likes of China which Switzerland and Iceland has already achieved (which the EU has not). We do have trade deals but these have to be negotiated by the EU and usually only relate to specific industries or goods and are as no where near as comprehensive or valuable as the free trade deals the above EFTA states have striked up. China is only one example, there are more countries whom we could begin to trade and cooperate with. As far as I’m aware the UK is the only EU member state who trades more with countries outside the EU than those within it.

    I’ll pass your sentiment on to my Belgian colleague to see what he thinks. Incidentally he’s quite vocal on his support of the EU but has said he’s voting for the UK to leave but for totally different reasons than myself.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Every time Jim Allister attacks Europhiles he potentially loses a swing voter, at least until someone from the Remain camp “pulls a Jim”. The reality is there is a huge Europhile population in every region of the UK and in Northern Ireland especially win or lose and they will remain. Likewise with the Euro/EU-skeptics and the Euro/EU-phobes.

    Cut the nonsense about trade deficits (equivalent to saying a loyal customer owns more of the shop when he sells his shares in it) and playing hard ball and look at the matter in terms of those who have used the European Union and the networks it has created to their advantage.

    Think about the UK and NI as being a near halfway house population between these extremes.

    Otherwise it’s the same undemocratic egocentric scaremongering rhetorical hegemony that is easily blamed on the other side from members within Brexit movements.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Norway has control over it’s common agricultural policy, common fisheries policy, common trade policy, common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs to name a few.

    Common with whom?

    It’s got customs posts with Sweden, Denmark and Finland. It’s got customs arrangements with fellow EFTA nations like Iceland.

    Even then it’s bound by international laws to respect the international waters of EU nations, the non-EU Danish crown dependencies and Iceland.

    The main “Common” policies that Norway have on a European basis are Schengen and NATO, or am I wrong?

    That’s the thing about “common policies” you cannot desire to be different and then demand others to be the same.

    How can one nation control a “common policy” between nations?

    Do you think the world’s largest democracy India is going to want trade deals “controlled” by Westminster (which governs a significantly lower population) again?

    Do you think China would like the hard balling of the Opium Wars or the Americans the hard balling of the Tea Act?

    How can this be dictated democratically from Westminster if an entirely other nation, presumably democratic on some level is involved?

  • Greenflag 2

    Tell your Belgian that his country owes it’s existence to Britain’s Lord Palmerston who figured out after Waterloo ( a close run battle ) that Britain’s national defence should begin in Flanders and not on the landing beaches of Kent . This policy worked in WW1 due to the fact that the Belgian military resistance delayed the German advance for long enough to deny a quick 6 week war victory for Kaiser Bill .

    Approx 16,000 Belgians were executed 1939-1945 for resisting nazi occupation even though the Belgian army capitulated after 18 days from invasion . .

    We live in a different world from those days in many respects but not in all . The UK is no longer the Empire of old with a stranglehold on world interest rates or one sided deals with former colonial resource markets for cheap food and textiles etc .

    I’d vote for the UK to stay in -not enthusiastically but as the less economically risky choice at this time . One can’t know how a country that tossed out Churchill in 1945 will vote on this issue but we are a long way from 1939 and 1945 and comparing apples and oranges is- apologies- a fruitless discussion .

  • Angry Mob


    I imagine If I took both your hands and placed them directly below the proverbial stick you’d still somehow manage to grab the wrong end.

  • Angry Mob

    I’m confident no matter what campaign gets the lead leave designation and what plan they advocate; if we do actually vote to leave that the Norway option that I have outlined above will be implemented by the government as it quite simply is the best choice in order to retain access to the single market without any major detrimental effects whilst giving us many benefits.

    In the slightly longer term when we can begin negotiating our own deals with the wider world which would be the economically smarter choice. With a new found clout the UK in the EFTA could push for significant reforms of the single market to push for a more free market.

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Quote by Roosevelt. It rings especially true. Any proposal put forward by the leave camp will be met with sheer hostility and the worst case disaster by the reaminers, however ask them about the risks of remaining and it’s all rose tinted sunglasses. If we remain we may be punished for simply thinking about an exit. Camerons deal amounts to nothing and as the EU pushes for ever closer union we either get on the bandwagon or get run over by it.

  • Turgon

    “Conor Houston explained that while the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building takes a neutral on the decision of whether the UK remains or leaves EU, it does want to encourage debate.”

    This neutral stance, however, does see it attend assorted meetings in Europe organised by the EU. Its publications also under the guise of “Challenging racism ending hate” (an entirely laudable objective in my view) make specific reference to EU citizens rather than all people from outside NI. It also receives funding from Poland and the RoI.

    As such its neutrality seems somewhat debatable.

  • Greenflag 2

    Britain is NOT Norway . In the 1970’s the British pound was devalued several times against the German Mark in order to make British exports competitive . Each time the pound was devalued it made matters worse and productivity increases in Germany and other EU countries far exceeded Britain’s . Thatcher attempted to change the dynamic but all she achieved was to destroy British manufacturing , engineering , shipbuilding and coalmining and turn the country into a grocer’s republic with the flagship of the economy to be the City of London .

    If the pound weakens the cost f British imports rises as will food prices and goods from other countries . If the pound increases in value exports to developing countries will be hit and anyway China and others have a huge competitive advantage . The City of London will cope either way thats what hedge funds are for – but it’s the rest of the UK that will imo get it in the neck or more accurately get hit in the pocket .

  • Kevin Breslin

    Norway had next to no say in CFSP.

  • Angry Mob

    My point wasn’t what input they have on CFSP but they are in it because they choose to rather than being forced too. The freedom to choose.