Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said that at the upcoming June EU Council meeting, the Irish government must not accept anything less than a binding and permanent commitment from the British government to avoid a hard border in Ireland following Brexit.
Carthy said: “In December the British government agreed that, in the absence of a comprehensive trade and customs agreement that avoids a hardening of the border in Ireland, a ‘backstop’ will kick in. This agreed backstop states that in the absence of any other solution, the North will remain in ‘full alignment’ with the EU’s single market and customs union rules.
“The proposal the British government has now brought forward states that the backstop would mean both Britain and the North remaining in the customs union after Brexit in March 2019 but only for a limited time (up to the end of 2021).
“This position is a totally unacceptable fudge, and a backtracking from the position agreed to by both Britain and the EU27 in December. As well as the dangerous introduction of a time limit – which means the backstop could end without a solution having been found to avoiding the imposition of a hard border in Ireland – this position fails to address the issue of the North remaining in the single market. It also fails to address whether the European Court of Justice will have jurisdiction in the North. There is no way the Good Friday Agreement can be upheld in all its parts if this backstop is time-limited.
“The British government agreed in the Protocol on Ireland in December that in the absence of another solution, the North would remain in full alignment with the single market and customs union – and that this would be part of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement text. It is of critical importance that the British are held to this, and that the British government commits to this permanent solution at the June EU Council meeting.
“The Irish government needs to make it clear to EU negotiators that this issue must be resolved at the June Council meeting. We urgently need legal certainty about post-Brexit arrangements in Ireland for our political and economic stability.
“The Irish government needs to listen to the voices of those most affected by a potential hard border and defend the joint position presented last month by the leaders of four Assembly parties – Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Greens.
“The Irish government must ensure that the EU27’s position is that anything less than a permanent solution is unacceptable. We need a backstop without limits that includes both the single market and customs union. We need a backstop that ensures there is no hardening of the border on this island, and which upholds the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.”