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Union Connectivity group sets action plan to deliver future prosperity

Council’s Union Connectivity Group: Mayor Peter Johnston, Councillor Timothy Gaston, Ald Billy Ashe MBE and Cllr Andrew Wilson

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Union Connectivity Working Group has agreed a strategic action plan aimed at boosting links across the four UK regions.

The group held its second meeting today with shared economic, social and cultural opportunities high on the agenda.

The Union Connectivity group consists of Mayor Peter Johnston, Deputy Mayor Andrew Wilson, Alderman Billy Ashe MBE and Councillor Timothy Gaston. Key to its work is Mid and East Antrim's vital input into the Government's current UK Connectivity Review. At today’s meeting, Members agreed a robust and comprehensive action plan, setting out four key themes: Engagement, the East-West Economic Corridor, Air Passenger Duty and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Members also discussed recent comments by Brexit Minister Lord Frost, in which he said “it is hard to see that the way the Protocol is currently operating can be sustainable for long”.

Lord Frost added that he hoped the EU would take a "pragmatic way forward" and that the Government would "continue to consider all our options in meeting our overriding responsibility for sustaining the peace and prosperity of everyone in Northern Ireland".

In a joint statement, Members of Council’s Union Connectivity Working Group, said:

“We are committed to doing everything we can to boost UK connectivity, and to ensure Mid and East Antrim is front and centre when it comes to considerations around major infrastructure investment.

“We are firmly behind the Government’s pledge to level up our economy, and that is more important than ever as we celebrate the centenary of Northern Ireland and rebuild the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are totally focused on delivering the aims and actions of the working group, including engaging with key regional and national stakeholders, so we can deliver on our vision for Mid and East Antrim, and the innovative and pragmatic ways we can improve east-west connectivity, strengthen our supply chains and deliver economic growth and prosperity here and right across the UK. Our action plan is crucial to this work.

“We also noted the recent comments by the Brexit Minister, who has outlined his concerns around the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on trade, and this is something we have a deep vested interest in on behalf of our business and industry leaders in Mid and East Antrim.”

Council will be updated on the progress of the action plan.

Key to the group's work is Mid and East Antrim's role within the Government's current UK Connectivity Review.

The Review, led by Sir Peter Hendy, is examining how best to improve road, rail, air and sea links between all four UK regions and to bring forward funding to accelerate infrastructure projects. Back in January, Elected Members approved Council’s response to a call for evidence.

The final Union Connectivity report will be submitted to the UK Government this summer highlighting a number of recommendations for future investment in transport between the nations of the UK.


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