This weekend I am attending the 59th Plenary Session of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) in the Forest of Arden, Warwickshire. While at BIPA, I will be chairing the Economic Committee and we are due to finalise a report on how to revitalize the high street.
Brexit has been a deeply dividing experience for people across our islands, so whether in London, Dublin, Belfast, Cardiff or Edinburgh it has strained our ability to work together for common purposes.
That is why the continued work of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly is so important as it allows us to build links with representatives from across the UK, Ireland, and crown dependencies, and focus developing relationships to understand better the challenges we face.
The Assembly is due to hear from Julian Smith MP, and Emily Thornberry MP at this important juncture in the Brexit process, alongside Adrian O’Neill, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom.
In my role as chair of the Economic Committee we have been working on a report that we intend to finalise this week on the ‘Revitalization of the High Street and Local Business’, an issue as important in Ireland as it is across the UK.
The Committee has visited Stockton, Newcastle, Dublin and Belfast during our inquiry and heard from a wide range of political, business and community representative and campaign groups. There has been much discussion regarding city approaches and the Committee has focused on finding best practice policy tools so we can solve the common problems afflicting high streets and local business.
The uncertainty caused by Brexit has been discussed, along with the consequences of high streets being hollowed out as many high-profile businesses endure financial distress.
BIPA is formed of members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, Houses of Parliament, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly, High Court of Tynwald (Isle of Man) and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. The Assembly’s mission is to promote co-operation between political representatives in Britain and Ireland for the benefit of the people they represent. It meets twice a year to on the close relationships established in recent years and discuss issues of mutual interest to Ireland and the UK.