Dáil Éireann debate –
Thursday, 11 Jun 2020
Covid-19 (Brexit): Statements
The EU-UK joint committee meeting tomorrow, at which there will be consideration of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, including the critically important protocol on Ireland-Northern Ireland, will be extremely important for people throughout the island, but particularly for communities in my home region on both sides of the Border. Given the backdrop of negative comments and analysis, we cannot, unfortunately, be confident of progress. The findings in the recent report of the British think tank, The UK in a Changing Europe, refer to time being short, the gap between the two sides and the negative economic impact and ramifications of a no-deal outcome.
On the specific issue of the Northern Ireland protocol, it was stated that there has been some progress by Britain in meeting its commitments to have the agreed arrangements up and running by the end of the year but, worryingly, it was also stated that there is still much detail to be clarified.
Businesses, especially small businesses, will struggle to be ready. Local businesses in my constituency and across the Border region are already struggling to survive. We have seen them do outstanding work in recent days and weeks to get back to work and exit the lockdown while protecting as many jobs and livelihoods as possible. Local communities have rallied to support local retailers and businesses by shopping local and supporting local producers. This could all be washed away by a hard 31 December British crash-out that drags Northern Ireland out against its will, without necessary preparations by the Tory Government in Westminster. The only hint of a plan that Prime Minister Johnson and his Government have is to do nothing, and hope the EU’s attitude to the UK might change when Germany takes the EU Presidency. It is not possible to overstate the scale of the damage that would follow a hard 31 December crash-out. If the worst-case-scenario emerges, our region and communities effectively would be held hostage and used as leverage by a Tory party driven by Brexit madness. This would not be the action of a good neighbour. The Government needs to urgently and immediately prepare for the worst, to help businesses prepare for an economic shock, as my colleague Deputy Haughey referred to, and work closely with our colleagues in Northern Ireland to ensure we stand with businesses and communities on both sides of the Border.