Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly TD says there are serious concerns for Ireland following the publication of two UK Brexit position papers, on Future Customs Arrangements and on Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Deputy Donnelly said, “Both papers have many of the right aspirations for Northern Ireland, and for Ireland’s future relationship with the UK. But it is impossible to ignore the actions of the UK Government, which are working in the opposite direction.
“In these papers, the UK Government prioritises barrier-free trade with Ireland, while leaving the single market. It prioritises having no new border around Northern Ireland, while leaving the customs union. It prioritises a transition period, while the UK’s Prime Minister states that free movement of people will end in March 2019 – putting a transition period at serious risk.
“The UK Government’s reaffirmation of its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area are welcome. So too is the focus on avoiding trade barriers in the agri-food sector and on maintaining and continuing to develop Ireland’s all-island energy market.
“It’s positive to see the UK Government committing to achieving a workable border solution between Ireland and the UK, but the proposals seem unrealistic. The papers prioritise seamless invisible borders, but a core rationale for Brexit was to stop the free movement of people from the EU into the UK. How can a seamless invisible border prevent this without the UK dropping its demand to end the free movement of EU citizens?
“The UK Government has not produced one example of an international border similar to that which would exist in Northern Ireland. Their proposal for on-going access to the customs union seems to be predicated on full access to the EU’s single market, while taking on few, if any, of the obligations.
“The EU response has already been one of frustration, with many seeing these papers as a restatement of the UK’s opening position – namely, that they want all of the benefits of EU membership without the obligations. Maybe the ‘hard Brexiteers’ have presented a document they know the EU will not accept, and are pushing for a ‘no deal’ outcome.
“It’s important that the EU negotiating team remains united in the months ahead. Ireland will not be negotiating on behalf of the UK despite the wishes of some in Westminster. The remaining 27 EU States will negotiate in block to secure a deal in the interests of all member states, including Ireland.”