Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo-Leitrim Marc Mac Sharry says there needs to be an explicit recognition at EU level of the special status of Northern Ireland in the context of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, in order to ensure that all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement are upheld.

Deputy Mac Sharry’s comments come following Michel Barnier’s address to the Dáil and Seanad last week.

He explained, “Mr. Barnier’s address acknowledged the challenges facing Europe in the months and years ahead as the Brexit negotiations get underway, and his acceptance that the Irish situation is unique given our historical and geographical ties with the UK, is welcome.  However, it is important that this understanding is reflected in the talks that are to come, and that Irish interests are protected.

“Brexit is already being felt here in the border region.  Farmers, the agri-food sector, tourism and small businesses are already being affected.  Fluctuations in currency and uncertainty over the future are making for an extremely challenging business environment – something this Government has not fully grasped.  We are still waiting for various Ministers to publish their Brexit strategies, and the reality of the situation is that these sectors need help and support now.

“The British government’s decision to opt-out of both the Single Market and the Customs Union are deeply destructive for business and industry here and we need an ambitious and creative approach so that we can diversify and adapt to meet the task ahead.  It’s important that we maintain a close trading relationship with the UK – it serves both Ireland’s and Europe’s interests, and even if there is a “soft border” we must continue to push for a special status.

“The warm language both from the UK and the EU towards Ireland is welcome, but it needs to be politically demonstrated and realised in full in the final agreement and the Government must step up to the mark and effectively communicate its policies, as well as the solutions to achieving them”.