Dundalk as it Happens
Fianna Fáil warns that special deal on border is at ‘serious risk’
Fianna Fáil has warned that the special deal on the future of the Irish border after Brexit is at serious risk.
The party’s Brexit spokesperson Stephen Donnelly told the Dáil today that the agreement reached last December by the Irish and British governments was not as “bulletproof” as first thought and could be omitted from the Separation Agreement due to be published soon.
He said the border terms were now likely to be part of a protocol attaching to the main agreement – something which risked diminishing its legal status.
The Fianna Fáil Wicklow TD said the key element of the border deal was the so-called “backstop”, which effectively meant that if no other arrangements could be come up with, then business standards in the North would mimic those across the EU. The process is called “regulatory alignment.”
Deputy Donnelly commented. “When we were briefed by the Taoiseach in December, we were assured that the so-called backstop was ‘bulletproof’, ‘rock solid’ and ‘cast iron’. The removal of this guarantee from the legal agreement raises concerns. It allows yet more time for this commitment to be watered down. It separates it from the main body of the Withdrawal Agreement. In anybody’s language, this feels like a political fudge – and when it comes to the Northern Ireland border, that cannot be tolerated.
“Within the December agreement there are three layers of protection from a hard border. The first is that the UK economy will remain fully aligned with the EU. The UK government has said repeatedly that they will not do this. The second is that the UK government propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland. This has not happened either. That leaves us with the backstop as the only remaining option to protect Ireland from a hard Border. It cannot be allowed to fail.
“What is particularly worrying is that the first two layers of protection are to be included in the main body of the Withdrawal Agreement, and only the third, the ‘backstop’, is to be separated out.
“Fianna Fáil has supported the government on the international stage. We are committed to working to get the best possible deal for Ireland. This deal must include upholding the commitments that the Taoiseach has already made. Any backsliding at this point would be disastrous for the people of Ireland, both north and south.”
Replying for the Government, Health Minister Simon Harris said that the December agreement on the border must be honoured in full. He said this was reaffirmed by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, at a meeting with the Taoiseach last week.
Mr Harris said the border arrangement was part of a wider EU-UK agreement. He said it would be reflected in full in the forthcoming Separation Agreement.
“The Irish Government’s view is that the ‘Backstop’ element of the withdrawal agreement is unambiguous and comprehensive – ensuring no North South Border controls now or anytime into the future,” Mr Harris insisted.