Mairead McGuinness MEP for Monaghan and first Vice-President of the European Parliament who has just led a group of influential Members of the European Parliament on a programme of visits and meetings with business, farming and community groups on both sides of the border said today (Thursday) they now have first-hand knowledge of the particular challenges that Brexit poses for the country.
Commenting on the visit Ms McGuinness said:
“Seeing is believing and the invisibility of the border today is something which must be maintained post-Brexit.”
“The MEPs saw with their own eyes how impossible and undesirable it would be to see a hard border re-established between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. They also understand how damaging this would be to peace, to security, to trade and to communities.”
She said this is critical, given the role the European Parliament has in agreeing the shape of the final deal to emerge between the UK and the EU.
The delegation included Elmar Brok MEP (Germany), European Parliament Sherpa for Brexit negotiations/Chair of EPP UK Advisory Working Group; Esteban Gonzalez Pons MEP (Spain), EPP Group Vice-Chair, EPP Group spokesman on Brexit; Esther de Lange MEP (the Netherlands), EPP Group Vice-Chair, Brian Hayes MEP and Seán Kelly MEP.
“While already acutely aware of Irish priorities to maintain peace and stability in Northern Ireland and to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland, and our concerns for the impact on bilateral trade in goods and services between Ireland and the UK, which amounts to €1.2 billion every week, they now have a deeper understanding from the first- hand experience they have gained this week”, McGuinness said.
“They walked our invisible, soft border with Northern Ireland, across which some 30,000 people travel each day. That brings home very forcibly the potential impact of a change to a hard border,” Ms McGuinness said.
“Local political representatives in Co Louth, business leaders, the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, the Irish Farmers Association and others provided the visitors with tremendous insight into the current status of the border counties and the potential damage Brexit could cause, if a reasonable deal is not struck,” she said.
“It was also clear that many of the concerns in Northern Ireland about a hard Brexit are not being articulated by UK and Northern Ireland politicians.
“Our Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the EPP Group are raising these concerns and will continue to do so.
“On that count, the visit by EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier to the border region to see for himself the damage that Brexit could bring is also very welcome and very important,” she said.
The agenda included a visit to the border at Carrickarnon, meetings with community, business and political representatives from the border region, at Flagstaff, Co. Louth Omeath, Co. Louth, and Carlingford, Co. Louth.
The representatives included Fergus O’Dowd TD, Louth; Peter Fitzpatrick TD, Louth; Conor Patterson, Chief Executive, Newry & Mourne Co-Operative and Enterprise Agency; Katie Daughen, Head of Brexit Research & Support Services, British-Irish Chamber of Commerce; Paul Lynam, Head of Sectoral Policy, British-Irish Chamber of Commerce; Michael Gaynor, President, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce; Paddy Malone, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce; Pamela Arthurs, Chief Executive, East Border Region Ltd; Joe Healy, President, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); Gerry Melia, Chair, Louth IFA; Elaine Farrell, Brexit Co-ordinator, IFA; Sean Ward, Garda Chief Superintendent, Louth; Gerry Curley, Superintendent, Dundalk Garda Station; Gerald Angley, Director, British-Irish Relations, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Eamonn Thornton.