European Research Group border proposals wholly presumptive – Richmond

-   Senator Neale Richmond

Fine Gael Senator and Seanad Brexit Committee Chairman, Neale Richmond, has rubbished the paper produced by the backbench European Research Group on the Irish border in a post Brexit scenario; dismissing it as being wholly presumptive.

“The absolute key reason why we have a seamless border on the island of Ireland today is due to the common membership of Ireland and the United Kingdom of the European Union. Both jurisdictions have been able to fast track the normalisation process in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement due to the common adherence to and respect of EU law.

“The paper produced by the European Research Group (ERG) assumes the continuing maintenance of many of these situations without the overarching rules of governance. There is a very good reason that standards will be the same at the time of the UK’s unfortunate departure because of acceptance of agreed EU rules.

“We now need an agreement that protects those very high common standards and maintains them going forward. We need legal guarantees that UK standards won’t slip and that equivalence will be maintained, good faith alone doesn’t cut it, we need treaties.

“This policy paper is dreamland stuff and completely disregards the well voiced and understandable position of the Irish Government and her partners who are remaining within the EU. It goes beyond cherry picking and ignores the absolute need for the post Brexit relationship to be one between the EU and the UK as a whole, as opposed to being a bilateral relationship between Ireland the UK. The ERG clearly still do not accept that Ireland is Europe.

“Much of the suggestions made in this paper, while coaxed in academic language, are simplistic and ignorant; the very fact that this paper is littered with differing fonts and was the subject to delayed launches shows that it is an ill thought out rush job lacking in merit.

“The whole policy of trusted trader and references to ‘regular shipments of goods’ fails to demonstrate the awareness that 85% of cross border trade in Ireland is done by SMEs who are unlikely to be able to engage in the level of bureaucracy being proposed; not to mention that any sort of exemptions will be music to the ears to the many smugglers currently in operation, smugglers in bed with or part of the very dangerous dissident paramilitary organisations whose ability to thrive in a post Brexit scenario has been well flagged by both the PSNI and An Garda Siochana.

“This paper focusses solely on the agrifood sector without a proper understanding of the complex area of cross border activity when it comes to service provision, healthcare and common rules in every other single sector. Cross border customs relations are not solely confined to trade in the agrifood sector. The paper rightly cites the expectation from Irish and British customs chiefs that they do not expect new border infrastructure and that is because those chiefs believe there will be a comprehensive deal between the EU and the UK covering all aspects of customs and trade.

“Much of the supposedly revolutionary thinking announced in this paper is a simple rehash of a paper produced in July by the Dutchman, Hans Maessen, their now paid advisor. It is not original thinking nor is it in anyway practical to anyone with the basic knowledge of the Irish border.

“We have seen real reports from the House of Commons’ Northern Ireland Committee, the House of Lords’ European Affairs Committee, the European Parliament’s Constitutional Committee and my own Brexit Committee in the Seanad that have shown that there are no technological solutions to the issue of the Irish border beyond a deep and meaningful customs and trade agreement between the EU and the UK as a whole.

“Throughout the original Referendum campaign, it was clear that the Leave campaign had never thought about the consequences for the Good Friday Agreement or the situation on the island of Ireland or possibly like many of the other glaring obstacles to their Utopian Brexit, they simply didn’t care. It is exactly because of this malevolent ignorance that a resolution on this issue has not been easy to tease out. Once again this paper simply does not understand the position that the Irish Government and our European partners are coming from.

“These plans by a backbench rump of the Conservative Party are a mere distraction, they are poorly thought out and completely unworkable. The European negotiating team are working around the clock with the British Government team to deliver a deal that can limit the disastrous impact of Brexit upon the UK and the EU while maintaining peace on the island of Ireland, allowing for the closest possible relations between both parties and respecting the integrity of our single market. We can achieve that deal and we must work to achieving that deal.”

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