It is the job of our members to ensure our urban areas are prosperous. As a collective of place managers, creating vibrant and thriving town and city centres is at the heart of what we do on a day to day basis. Supporting businesses, engaging with the community and creating a safe environment for people to work, shop, invest, live and visit is the core tenet of ATCM and its members.
Our members in Ireland and Northern Ireland have been aided by the ease in which people and businesses can trade seamlessly using the current border arrangements to their fullest advantage. Following ATCM’s Post-Brexit Conference in Birmingham in October 2017, we held in-depth consultations with members including Experian, Centre for Cities and DublinTown Business Improvement District (BID). More recently we held members’ meetings in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim and Mullingar Co Westmeath. All attending delegates are deeply concerned about the uncertainty of options over future border arrangements. Regardless, of any decisions taken on the United Kingdom’s role within the Single Market and/or Customs Union, we urge all parties to work towards a solution that prevents the implementation of any additional barriers on the island of Ireland.
The impact of barriers to freedom of movement for goods and people will, we believe, result in a very negative impact on both sides of the border. Our members have stressed to us that any measure taken that divides these two jurisdictions will have bleak repercussions for both local economies and local communities.
We have already begun to see the impact of issues like uncertainty and currency fluctuation on people and businesses. Within this context, ATCM members on both sides of the border are working hard to provide a stable environment for towns to flourish through business support and guidance, enhancing town centre living through the Purple Flag scheme and many other measures. However, a real concern is that changes to how the border is managed could cause avoidable damage to towns and cities, both north and south, that our members will be hard pressed to repair.
The challenge is particularly significant for the border towns. The erection of any physical border or any initiative that delays the process of crossing the border is simply not practical for these towns that find themselves on the frontline. Commuters, consumers, visitors and goods currently cross the border seamlessly and often several times a day. One company located in the Republic of Ireland completes 14,000 border crossings per annum.
We make a plea to all parties involved in the negotiations that the relationship between the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) and Ireland is precious and must be preserved.
The ATCM Border Statement will be shared with the UK and Irish governments, the European Commission and other key stakeholders.