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Bolstering economic corridor between MEA and Scotland ‘crucial to post-Covid recovery’

Building on the economic bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland will be vital to the recovery of both countries as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the North Channel Partnership has said.

The group, made up of elected members and council officers from Mid and East Antrim, and Dumfries and Galloway councils, met virtually to discuss a wide range of challenges and opportunities they face, and to continue to work together to set out their collective vision for economic growth and prosperity.

The impact of the pandemic was said to have highlighted the key strategic importance of the connectivity of Northern Ireland with Scotland, with the ferry route from Larne to Cairnryan proving critical to maintain important supplies and services.

During this week’s meeting, chaired by Councillor Gregg McKeen, updates were received from the action groups on the progress of efforts to secure significant investment in infrastructure to pave the way for improved UK-wide connectivity.

The group also discussed the implications of the impending end of the EU departure transition period on trade and businesses, significant opportunities that exist through tourism, as well as updates from Chief Executive Anne Donaghy OBE on Growth Deals in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Freeports were another key topic for discussion after the Government announced it intends to create up to 10 across the United Kingdom, including at least one in Northern Ireland.

Freeports are secure customs zones where business can be carried out inside a country’s land border but where different customs rules apply.

Councillor McKeen, Alderman Maureen Morrow and Councillor Danny Donnelly are Mid and East Antrim’s elected representatives on the Partnership.

Speaking after the meeting, Councillor McKeen said: “I want to thank our Scottish colleagues for their continued co-operation and commitment to building economic bridges with Mid and East Antrim, and Northern Ireland.

“Those linkages are more crucial than ever before as we all work to rebuild our economy following the devastation caused by Covid-19.”

Alderman Maureen Morrow said: “I also thank the representatives from our ferry companies, who provided excellent insights into their operations now and from 1 January 2021 onwards.”

Cllr Danny Donnelly said: “The North Channel Partnership continues to prove itself to be an excellent vehicle and platform for collaborative working on our priorities over the next 12 months.”

Chair and Vice Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy and Resources Committee, Rob Davidson and Archie Dryburgh, both attended the meeting.

Councillor Davidson said: “Our relationship with our colleagues in Mid and East Antrim is important to us and has huge potential to help both our Councils in leading the economic recovery from Covid-19, as well as tackling the challenges of Brexit together.

“We have an ambitious action plan and look forward to seeing this taking shape for the benefit of our respective regions over the coming year.”

A Strategy and Action Plan was previously developed through the North Channel Partnership between Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The document reflects the Partnership’s five key ambitions for joint working in the areas of Ports and Infrastructure, Digital, Food and Drink, Tourism Offer and Collaborative Events.

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