Thursday, 11 July 2019
Brexit Contingency Action Plan: Statements
Like many other Border county representatives in the House and others, I worked tirelessly and diligently, both locally and nationally, to ensure that the spirit of co-operation for an all-island economy would be achieved. Long gone are the days when the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic kept their backs to each other. They now face each other and have confronted what appeared to be insurmountable issues at times to achieve not only the fragile peace but two economies, North and South, that are interdependent. The prospect of a crash-out Brexit will leave both economies back at square one. There is also a real danger that the fragile peace process, which is so important for these islands, will be compromised.
Yesterday's cross-Border report in respect of a no-deal Brexit is stark reading, with an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 jobs to be lost in Northern Ireland coupled with a similar forecast of 50,000 to 60,000 job losses in the South. That equates to the adult population of my constituency of Louth. If we wish to discuss the imposition of tariffs, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI, has indicated that one of its major concerns, particularly with regard to the sheep and pig markets, is that there will be a huge compromise of animal welfare. If tariffs are introduced there will be no market and there is a danger that farmers will be unable to feed their animals or let them out. That shows there must be collective action to solve the problem. It is also evident that the small and medium-sized companies that are trading across the Border each day will soon find themselves with no place to go. When it comes to EU tendering and so forth they may be excluded.
I fully support the backstop and particularly the collective solidarity in these Houses of all parties and none. The withdrawal agreement was agreed by the British Government, but it is now trying to unravel it with suggestions of a five-year time limit. The elephant in the room is how we deal with a hard border. Politics is the art of compromise and I firmly believe, having lived with the Border, that an all-Ireland economy and an economic zone must be created on these islands for a period of years to ensure that the people North and South and their economies and livelihoods are protected.
I hope that the Russian roulette being played with our economy will be resolved. We are staring down the barrel of a gun and politics is being played by those who would like to pull the trigger. They need to take into account the people of all of our islands and particularly the island of Ireland.