Thursday, 11 July 2019
Brexit Contingency Action Plan: Statements
Whether it is Mr. Johnson or Mr. Hunt who wins the contest to be the next British Prime Minister there is little to suggest that we can avoid a UK crash out of the EU. As we all knew, and as Sinn Féin has consistently warned, the consequences of this for the Good Friday Agreement and for the restoration of the political institutions in the North are not good. The power sharing Government was stood down by Martin McGuinness because it was not fit for purpose. So far, talks have failed to bring the DUP to accept the imperative of a rights-based Good Friday Agreement dispensation. The British Government has also failed to fulfil its obligations even before Brexit. The outcome of Brexit, whether it is a no-deal scenario or with a withdrawal agreement, is not good either.
Both will have a damaging impact on the political, social and economic life of the island of Ireland but especially Border communities such as those in County Louth and citizens living in the North. According to the Government's contingency action plan update, we can expect job losses in the order of 50,000 to 55,000 in the most exposed sectors. A report published yesterday by the North's Department for the Economy predicts that up to 40,000 jobs will be at risk in the event that there is a no-deal Brexit. Last month a confidential British Government study was published by the Brexit select committee. It identified 142 areas of co-operation between this state and the North and between the island of Ireland and Britain. Incidentally, I appeal to the Government and others, in the interests of geographical accuracy, to stop describing this state as Ireland. It is not Ireland; its title is the Republic of Ireland. As wel all know, Ireland is the entire island.
This week the Government acknowledged that checks on some goods from the North would be necessary after a no-deal Brexit. The Tánaiste's statement this morning refers to the impact of tariffs, customs and sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, requirements and associated checks necessary to preserve the State's full participation in the Single Market and the customs union. That is despite many previous assertions made by the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach that there would be no physical infrastructure or related checks or controls. What does that mean for the tens of thousands of citizens who travel across the Border every day, whose land straddles the Border and, in some places, whose homes straddle the Border? What will happen to the people travelling to and from work, the farm, school, on business or socially to sports events and so on? The Minister, Deputy Ross confirmed to me yesterday that the Government had asked the European Commission to exercise its right to set aside the use of the so-called green card for drivers. Thus far the European Union appears to be refusing to do so.
As we have all pronounced, it is the future of the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions that is of the greatest concern. Under Mrs. Theresa May, the Tories were committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act and undermining the core human rights values of the Good Friday Agreement. Under Mr. Johnson or Mr. Hunt, that stance is likely to harden. We must always remember that the people of the North voted to remain in the European Union. That is a fact and it needs to be upheld. In its contingency action plan update the Government concludes that there is "a risk that the UK government might initiate a move to Direct Rule" as a response in managing the new post-Brexit situation. Having identified that risk, what is the Government doing about it? Has it spoken directly to the British Government about it? Will the Tánaiste confirm that the Government is implacably opposed to the imposition of direct rule? Will the Government also move beyond the rhetoric and, if the British Government moves in this direction, will the Tánaiste commit to using the diplomatic service and all available international forums to prevent it from happening?