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‘North West is a petri dish of post-Brexit possibilities'

The North West is a “petri dish of post-Brexit possibilities”, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer McKeever has told Tánaiste Simon Coveney on his visit to Derry today.

The Tánaiste and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade was the keynote speaker at the Chamber President’s Annual Lunch in the City Hotel this afternoon.

In her address, Ms McKeever described the Derry city region as a place “where every Brexit outcome - optimistic and pessimistic - comes to be examined.”

“We are a petri dish of post-Brexit possibilities here in the North West,” sheadded.

Ms McKeever commended Minister Coveney and his colleagues for their efforts in “defending” the Good Friday Agreement and standing firm on why there can be no hard border on the island.

She explained the “depth of the frustration and patience” of local businesses during the last two years of Brexit uncertainty. She highlighted the “tragic irony” that Northern Ireland has no government right at the time when an “enormous feat of cooperation and collaboration” by the parties is necessary.

“There are lessons for politicians to learn from the business community. You set goals and then you make clear to your team how you are going to achieve them. You co-operate with the people you work with to achieve those goals. You insist that people who work together show respect to one another and to the people they serve. No matter how tough it gets, you have to keep going. You can't afford to abdicate your leadership,” she said.

The Chamber President said it’s hard for people in the North West to contemplate the creation of “any kind” of  border.

“The Irish Border for us is not simply a line on a map - it's a part of how we liveand trade every day. An open and frictionless border is so absolutely crucial to civic and economic life here.

“We can see the triple conundrum that Theresa May has in front of her- having promised no hard border on the Island of Ireland, no watery border in the Irish Sea and still committing the whole of the UK to leaving the Customs Union and Single Market.

“The pressing concern for us is that those outcomes could leave us worse off - not least of all by damaging peace and security in Northern Ireland.

“It beggars belief as to how any solution could be offered that could cause potential damage or take us backwards. There is no Free Trade Agreement worth paying that price,” she added.

Tánaiste and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney said the Derry event gave him an opportunity to “hear the concerns” of the business and regional representatives in attendance.

He said: “It provided a timely opportunity to acknowledge the leadership shown by organisations in the North West in the face of recent unprecedented challenges posed by Brexit.

“It also provided the opportunity to update attendees on progress in the EU-UK negotiations including the Irish-specific issues and our priorities for discussions on the future relationship. The Government’s response to Brexit continues unrelenting and events of this nature with key partners like the Chamber form an important and valued part of our ongoing stakeholder engagement.”