Engagement and realism will provide the best route to solving problems caused by Brexit, not boycotts, Fine Gael TD and Spokesperson on European Affairs Neale Richmond TD has said.
Deputy Richmond was reacting to the announcement from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, that his party will withdraw from the strand two institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and are prepared to collapse the Executive entirely.
Speaking today, Deputy Richmond said, “While this intervention by Sir Jeffrey is not a massive surprise, it still remains a major disappointment; one that will leave many people wondering how will this improve matters for anyone across our island – but particularly for those in Northern Ireland?
“Over the past number of months, EU officials have worked steadfastly with their UK colleagues to look at measures that can ensure the smoothest possible implementation of the protocol in a manner that does not damage Northern Ireland, be it economically or socially.
“Therefore, the timing of Sir Jeffery’s intervention is doubly disappointing given the EU’s reasonable response to the latest extension of grace periods by the British Government, as well as the coinciding of the announcement with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič’s visit to Northern Ireland.
“Indeed, the Irish Government has been working constructively with Sir Jeffery and his own party over the past number of weeks in light of a number of frank but constructive meetings.
“It should not be lost on anyone that the extent of difficulties that Brexit is presenting is due to the very nature of the hard Brexit this British Government has pursued. There are very obvious solutions to the need for checks in the possibility of an EU-UK veterinary agreement and a focus on closer relations that would be eminently sensible.
“While Sir Jeffrey has laid out a long list of difficulties he and his party have with the protocol, perceived and actual, the extent to which solutions are provided is once again lacking.
“A scant reference to an unacceptable mutual enforcement system that has already been dismissed as unworkable simply isn’t good enough especially with the not-so-veiled threat to take this action further by collapsing the institutions entirely.
“It shouldn’t be forgotten that Sir Jeffrey’s party was a part of the Leave campaign that delivered a Brexit that never addressed the very serious challenges the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would present to the Good Friday Agreement. When Sir Jeffrey’s party held the balance of power in Westminster to influence the shape of the post Brexit agreements, they chose to oppose everything. Since the end of the transition period, what efforts have the DUP made to actually engage on realistic solutions to the problems of Brexit?
“It is worth noting that the easiest way to meet the terms of the DUP’s seven tests would of course be for the UK to re-join the EU.
“More practically, with so many day-to-day challenges needing continued cooperation on a North/South basis, I struggle to see how withdrawing from the strand two institutions is wise. What farmer North or South benefits from a boycott of the Agriculture North/South Ministerial Council?
“Sir Jeffrey and his party have repeatedly warned that the concerns of Unionists need to be listened to, I agree with him but how are those concerns going to be voiced if his Ministers refuse to engage or do not show up to vital Ministerial meetings?
“Brexit is far from done, engagement and realism will provide the best route to solutions; that is where the focus should be,” concluded Deputy Richmond.