The EU is determinedly looking to the future, while actively making every effort to reach a Brexit agreement with the UK, including dealing with the particular circumstances in Ireland and the determination not to allow a return to a hard border, Mairead McGuinness, MEP and first Vice-President of the European has said.
Addressing the Annual Rural Seminar of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland at the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise (formerly the Heritage Hotel), on Friday ((17th November) she said the is was regrettable that insufficient progress has been made in the negotiations on the three core issues – citizens’ rights, the border issue and the financial settlement.
“I am more concerned today than I was a month ago, as the UK appears to be sticking to a hard line on several important issues and attempting to change the scheduling of the negotiations for their own particular purposes.
“Repeatedly we hear leading UK Government politicians call for a move to the next phase of the negotiations on the future trading partnership with the EU.
“This can happen but only if more progress is made on the money, rights and border questions within the coming two weeks,” she said.
And while this is possible it would, she said, require the UK to stop linking the financial issues to a future trade deal and for clearer guarantees to be given on the Irish border issue.
“The UK negotiators appear to think that the Irish issues can be addressed when an agreement on the future trade relationship is negotiated, while failing to realise that the peace process and the shared commitment to ensuring that it is honoured in all its parts requires a great deal more than resolving the trade question.”
Ms McGuinness said the EU 27 have been consistent, clear and united on the sequencing of the negotiations – divorce settlement, possible transition and future trade partnership.
“The UK has been less forthcoming in terms of what it wants. It is clear on wanting to leave the Customs Union and Single Market – despite the implications of this hard red line on the island of Ireland.
“The only way to keep the situation on the island of Ireland today into the post Brexit era is for UK to remain in the customs union and single market. If the UK remains determined to leave both, then it is the UK that must bear the responsibility for what happens on the island of Ireland.
“The suggestion that the border in Ireland is the same as that at Dover shows a failure to understand and take on board the unique circumstances, history, culture and progress that has been made because of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and how that process needs careful nurturing to ensure that communities move forwards and not backwards.”
Ms. McGuinness said Brexit is an enormous challenge for Ireland, less so for other member states. “We continue to make this case to our EU partners and colleagues,” she said.
Equally, she said the EU is moving on from Brexit and that Ireland must be part of the debate about how that future will look and feel.
“Our challenge is to plan on how to mitigate the deeply disturbing negative consequences which would come from a bad Brexit deal, while working to ensure that an agreement on current and future issues is reached.
“Our farmers, our businesses and citizens crave certainty in a situation where there is deep uncertainty about the future.
“But equally we must be part of the debate about the Europe of the future,” she added.