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Lack of new Irish Strategy on Brexit and Border worrying

9 February 2018

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has said the Irish Government must now respond strongly to the growing unease at recent UK Brexit developments. Speaking after the comments today by Michel Barnier, and following other developments this week, Deputy Howlin said the prospect of an unavoidable border undermines the Taoiseach's previous statement that the December agreement was bulletproof.

Deputy Howlin said:

“Today Michel Barnier has confirmed our worst fears, by stating that a UK decision to leave the single market and customs union would make a hard border unavoidable.

“It is bizarre to see reported today the comments of Minister of State for Europe McEntee on BBC Radio 4 that Ireland wants to hear what the UK proposals are to solve the Border issue when the Government is so confident that the agreement in place will resolve it.

“The Taoiseach must now respond to the latest developments, which undermine his comments before Christmas that the commitment given by the UK was ‘politically bullet-proofed’, and was rock solid and cast iron.

“As efforts are made to put a legal text in place on the December agreement, the disagreements over the transition period show the difficulty in providing substance to the commitment to retain full regulatory alignment on our island.

“If the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs believe this was not a fudge then they should now outline some of the substance and details on how they believe alignment will be achieved when the UK exits the customs union and single market. As Barnier said, there can be no ambiguity.

“The last week has shown that the British Government has no position that they can unite behind, and it appears that the Irish Government have no strategy to deal with this.

“Since December I have highlighted the unlikely acceptance by the UK during a transition period of continued rights for EU citizens, the fact that the UK would have to accept all new EU laws and regulations, and the ongoing jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

“The bind that Ireland now faces is that the UK has been back peddling from its previous commitment, and has reiterated its decision to leave the customs union.

“The Irish Government has not been able to tell us what it wants in Phase Two of the Brexit negotiations, nor how it believes the December agreement will be made legally binding."