Ritchie leads NI funding debate

SDLP's Margaret Ritchie
SDLP's Margaret Ritchie

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has led a debate in Westminster on the impact of Brexit on EU funding in Northern Ireland.

Ms Ritchie highlighted the importance of EU funding in regenerating Northern Ireland’s economy, through the PEACE fund, INTERREG funding and the provision of agricultural subsidies.

She explained: “The non-aligned cross-border impact of European funding would be very difficult to replicate outside of the EU, and can only be guaranteed by retaining the north’s continued eligibility for EU funding, either in its own right or by virtue of our relationship with the Irish government

“In fact, based on 2015 figures, around £280 million is invested in the agricultural economy through subsidies. About 79 million euros has been invested in areas of natural constraint. In many instances, these represent basic payments and provide many within the farming population their sole source of income. It is important that the farming and rural way of life is safeguarded.

“Special status or associate membership for Northern Ireland is compatible with each of the 12 negotiation goals that the Prime Minister outlined last week. Given that, tri-lateral work between the British government, Irish government and the parties of the Assembly is needed to establish how this can be implemented.”

Ms Ritchie added: “Through my membership of the EFRA Select Committee and directly to the British and Irish governments as well as the Northern Ireland Executive, I will continue to fight for the farming and rural communities in South Down to ensure that they are financially protected.”