Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 8 June 2021
Seanad Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union
Brexit Issues: Discussion
I thank Senator Lombard. All members who indicated have contributed. I will ask a question and then go to our guests in reverse order, with Ms Walsh responding first this time, followed by Mr. Markey and Mr. Andrews. As with Ms Walsh, all of my questions have been. There is one area of particular interest to me that I will focus on because it does not get attention, as Mr. Andrews noted. It is the issue of parliamentary scrutiny and oversight of the implementation of the agreement. I was not aware that we did not have an Irish MEP on the European Parliament's United Kingdom coordination group. When will that membership come up for renewal again? Will there be an opportunity to get an Irish MEP on to the group? When will the new scrutiny group replacing the Brexit steering group be in place and when will be know if we have Irish MEPs on it?
Mr. Andrews referred to the limited powers of the EU-UK parliamentary partnership assembly, which is to oversee the agreement. That is a cause for concern. It is such a high-level body and perhaps we do not pay enough attention to it. We need to ensure that citizens have oversight through their representatives. Mr. Andrews stated the Parliament will be informed of decisions on or changes in the operation of the agreement. Is it possible for parliamentary partnership assembly to make recommendations to follow through on that and to direct that something might happen? If it does not have such powers, is there an argument for having these powers introduced? There needs to be a mechanism by which citizens, through their MEPs, can have a say on how this is operated rather than, effectively, civil servants running it without any parliamentary oversight. That is my first point.
My final comment is on the Northern Ireland protocol. As I have stated previously, I have serious concerns regarding the vote that will take place in Stormont in four years' time to allow for the continuation of the protocol. We should not take the outcome of that vote for granted. We are told the veterinary agreement will deal with 80% of the problems that have been identified. We hear time and again from the Unionist community, particularly the DUP, that it does not matter how much one tinkers around the edges, adjusts or amends the protocol, the very fact that it exists is abhorrent to it and it will not support its continuation in any shape or form. I do not know what we should do about that, to be honest. Continued engagement North and South and east and west is very important but I have concerns that this will be a live issue in Northern Ireland politics from now onwards. I would appreciate comments from our guests on those points.