Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Recent Developments on Brexit: Statements
The Brexit journey has at times been nightmarish. It has always been a bumpy ride and, occasionally, it has puzzled us all greatly. While almost everybody in Ireland yesterday looked on in amazement at yet another massive rejection vote in the British House of Commons, the British Government was readying itself to announce a new tariff regime. This will apply to goods entering Britain from the Republic of Ireland. In the same breath, the British Government stated that no tariffs would apply to goods crossing the Border into the North. They would, however, apply to goods going from the North to Britain.
This incredible proposition represents not just a puzzling moment. For Ireland, North and South, it is a nightmarish prospect. The British Government document, covering 25 subheadings, including, at the start, aluminium foil and continuing through beef, butter, cheese, poultry, pork and ending with tyres and wheels, would if implemented have a devastating impact on Irish trade. That would be the case particularly in the agriculture and agrifood sector in this jurisdiction and across Ireland. What madness is this? Can it be so easily dismissed, as some in this House would have us believe? Let there be no mistake about this. The Brexit caravan could very easily become a runaway train, with all of the damage that could cause and that could follow in its wake. I again urge our Government and its representative voices in Europe to impress upon the European Commission and the EU Brexit negotiators the importance of presenting a real show of solidarity with Ireland through significant capital investment commitments for our transport links with the rest of the member states of the European Union. I refer to solid and sustainable compensatory measures for businesses, farming families, agrifood processors and for exporters generally. The EU has to accept it has a responsibility to help ensure jobs are protected and maintained in this country in a worst case scenario.
Brexit has always been a threat. It could, however, yet represent an economic disaster for Ireland and its people. With only 16 days remaining until the 29 March deadline, we need certainties from Europe. It is certainly welcome that the backstop is locked in place. The EU, however, has more to do and, I suggest, much more. The vote in Westminster tonight on the proposal to take a no-deal Brexit off of the table, which passed but only just, will be followed tomorrow by another motion to defer Brexit pending further negotiations. There is every chance that motion will be adopted. The EU, however, has made it very clear that it will need to be convinced of its merits.
Before the Minister of State wraps up, I would like her to state on the record where the Irish Government stands on the proposition of extending Article 50 and giving the British Prime Minister more time.