Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I do not think the British Government sees what it published this morning as a viable solution in the medium to long term. That is why it has described it as a temporary solution, which is clearly inadequate in terms of the longer term. The European Union, understandably, will want to protect the integrity of the Single Market and customs union, as will Ireland, and, at the same time, recognise the commitments to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland between the two jurisdictions. That will continue to be the case. What I am saying is that we have a deal on the table that solves that problem. It is called the backstop. It is in place as an insurance mechanism. There are alternative arrangements that the EU is happy to consider but they have to stack up. In my view, there is no viable solution that manages sensibly the two obligations we have of preventing border infrastructure and, at the same time, protecting the integrity of both single markets - in the UK and the EU - and which does not involve something that looks like the backstop around regulatory alignments and also the checking systems that are part of that backstop model. That will have to be discussed between the three parties.
I will make one other comment with the facilitation of the Chair. We have very important legislation on fisheries in the Seanad today. I am appealing to both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, which currently oppose the Bill, to consider what they are doing. We are in the business of preventing border infrastructure, both in the Irish Sea and on land, and we are currently preventing fishing vessels from Northern Ireland accessing our waters within the six-mile limit, which we have done historically under the voisinagearrangements. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, is trying to fix that problem this week and he needs the facilitation and assistance of both parties in the Seanad. I appeal to them to be of assistance in that regard.