Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Brexit, has called on the Government to move from jargon to concrete solutions, with formal Brexit negotiations just weeks away. Deputy Donnelly made the call at Dublin Castle today, where the All-Ireland Civic Dialogue took place.
Deputy Donnelly said, “Today we heard strong views from a range of stakeholders and experts, including from academia and civil society. With Article 50 to be triggered by the UK government next month, there was a clear sense of urgency in the room.
“Fianna Fáil’s view was echoed, on the need for detailed solutions to the challenges Brexit poses. What, for example, is a seamless border? Or an invisible border? Or a frictionless border? How can people be stopped travelling to Northern Ireland, as Brexit intends, without border guards? Seventy percent of tourists in Northern Ireland arrive via the Republic – how, and where, are they to do checked?
“The same applies to trade. 74% of imports to Northern Ireland come from the EU. The call from Westminster is for a zero-tariff regime, but how can that be achieved with the UK no longer part of the common agricultural policy? The Republic exports a lot of beef to the North. If WTO tariffs kick in, which many believe they must, the tariff on Irish beef would be 50%. We sell nearly half the food we grow to the UK – if WTO tariffs are applied, it will cause serious damage to the agri-food sector – to incomes and jobs – both north and south of the border.
“Worryingly, the Irish government appears to have backed away from seeking special status for Northern Ireland. The language has changed to seeking recognition of the ‘unique circumstances’ of the region. Today’s conference was told that there are 25 overseas territories with different forms of special status relating to the EU – it’s time there was a 26th.
“We need to start providing real solutions for how trade can be protected. We must seek special status for the North, to protect their rights as Irish and therefore EU citizens, to ensure on-going involvement for Northern Ireland with the European Union and its institutions. We need plans developed sector by sector, identifying the risks and proposing tangible solutions. That also means seizing the opportunity to progress an all-island economy where we can, in areas like tourism, energy, agriculture and manufacturing. It simply isn’t enough to say that the EU will negotiate as one – we need to start putting tangible solutions on the table for debate.
“The government is taking action, but it all seems too vague, too deferential to our EU partners, and too slow. It is becoming clearer and clearer that a Cabinet Minister for Brexit should be appointed, to provide full-time coordination at a political level for Ireland’s efforts. There is obviously a key role for the Taoiseach to play, but no Taoiseach could give this the time it demands, with so many conflicting demands on their time and office. Add to this the likelihood that a new Taoiseach, and several new ministers, are likely to be in place in the coming months, and the need for a dedicated Cabinet-level lead for Brexit becomes even more pressing.”