Implications for Good Friday Agreement of UK Referendum Result: Discussion (Resumed)

We will continue our consideration of the implications of Brexit for the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions. I am pleased to welcome our witnesses, Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh and Mr. Tom Arnold, from the Institute for International and European Affairs, IIEA. The IIEA has been doing a lot of interesting work on Brexit. We look forward to hearing the views and insights of the witnesses and the committee will have a number of questions. I understand Mr. O'Ceallaigh will speak first, followed by Mr. Arnold.

I need to go through some technical matters with regard to mobile phones. I remind members, guests and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure their mobile phones and tablets are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting as they cause interference, even if on silent mode, with the recording equipment.

I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person or body outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against a person or persons or an entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. On behalf of the committee the witnesses are very welcome.

Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh

I thank the Chairman and members for inviting us. I will deal with some of the generalities and Mr. Arnold will deal with trade and agriculture in particular.

The future is very uncertain and unpredictable. We really do not know where we will be in two, three, four or ten years time. It is very uncertain. Last week, the British Prime Minister, Mrs May, clarified where she would like to be, but this does not necessarily mean where she will end up. I will draw attention to several things she said, the first and most important point being the UK is leaving the EU. This is the only basis on which we can do business, at least for the moment.

In its judgment in recent days, the British Supreme Court made it clear that the negotiation of leaving the EU is a matter for the British Government and the British Parliament and not for the devolved institutions or the devolved executives. The Prime Minister made it clear she wants Britain to leave the Single Market. At the same time, she stated she would seek to have the greatest possible access to the Single Market, and I believe she used the word "frictionless". She stated she would do this through the form of a free trade agreement. All of this remains to be negotiated. What is clear is that the UK is leaving the Single Market. The Prime Minister did not state how this would be achieved.

The Prime Minister stated the UK will not be part of the common commercial policy nor will it be bound by the common external tariff. In effect, these issues are part of the customs union and it means there will be a break in the customs union. She also made it clear she wants to have control over the immigration of EU citizens into the United Kingdom. All of our discussions and thoughts about the future of Northern Ireland, the future of the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic and our relations with the United Kingdom need to be put in the framework of these points.

What does this mean for the Good Friday Agreement, the relationship with Northern Ireland and the relationship of the Republic with Britain? The Border and what happens on it will now be an issue for the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU. What we seek to get on the Border and what we seek as a State to get in the relationship with Northern Ireland we will have to pursue within the framework of the negotiations which will be carried out by the Commission with a very big input and oversight from the European Council.

In view of the British stress on the control of immigration, and especially because of the likelihood the common customs union will be replaced with something different, it is almost inevitable there will be a border between North and South in the future which will be different from the Border which exists now. If these things are to go through there will have to be some sort of control over immigration into the United Kingdom, which includes Northern Ireland, and there will have to be some form of control over the movement of goods between the United Kingdom and Ireland. It seems to me inevitable that in some way there will be a border which does not exist at present. It need not necessarily be a physical border, for example, the border between Norway and Sweden is not physical.

There is no border post where lorries have to stop and so on. There are rights for the customs and revenue people on one side to travel into the other jurisdiction. There are rights, for example, for Swedish customs officers to operate on Norwegian territory and for Norwegian customs officers to operate on Swedish territory. That might be one possibility. Another possibility is that with the development of technology and so on, there could be a lot of pre-clearance so that things could go through without stopping. I do think that there will be a border and that there will inevitably be extra costs for people in business and for people travelling from one jurisdiction to the other.

The second issue is the common travel area. The common travel area is perhaps a little bit more bilateral. It might be possible, one does not know, for the British and Irish Governments to agree some sort of arrangement to allow for a continuation of the common travel area. It will form part of the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Like all negotiations of this kind, nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed. Do not think that it will be possible to have a deal on the common travel area up front. It will be part of the negotiations, but I would have thought that if the two Governments can reach agreement on the terms of a common travel area and put that into the negotiating framework, there would, I think, be a reasonable chance that the Europeans would accept it.

It is clear from listening to European sources, including Mr. Michel Barnier, that they are conscious of the problem caused by Brexit for the relationship across the Border, and that they are also very conscious of the unique problems which are faced in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is seen by the Europeans as a European success because the Europeans invested a very great deal in the peace process, as we know, through both the INTERREG arrangements and through the peace programmes in Northern Ireland. They know that has been a success and they do not want to throw it away. They are also aware of how fragile it is, as we have all seen in the last few weeks. I think there is probably a better chance of retaining the common travel area than there is of retaining the situation as it is on the Border. I would just offer a reminder of what Mrs May actually said. She said that she would do everything possible to find a practical solution to the issue of the common travel area but, I quote, "while protecting the integrity of the UK's immigration system". There are steps here that have to be overcome.

I think overall, my greatest concern would be about the loss of a very close, daily relationship between British and Irish politicians and civil servants, which take place in Brussels. Every day of the week in Brussels, or elsewhere, there are meetings taking place in which British and Irish officials and politicians meet and do business together. Once the UK leaves the European Union, that sort of close co-operation that has existed for the last 40 years will disappear. It was only because of that close co-operation that the two Governments were actually able to bring the parties in Northern Ireland together and to bring peace in Northern Ireland. My greatest concern is that over a period, when the UK has left the European Union, those constant meetings of British and Irish politicians and officials will come to an end, and we will not find it as easy in the future to resolve the problems which always arise, as we have found over the last 20 years. I am not hopeless at all, but I think it is going to be quite difficult.

I thank Mr. O'Ceallaigh. I call Mr. Tom Arnold, and then we will take questions.

Mr. Tom Arnold

I will repeat Mr. O'Ceallaigh's core conclusions. The logic of a hard Brexit, that is to say British exit from the Single Market and the customs union, inevitably points back to a border within the island of Ireland. Set against this logic are the clear political statements from both the UK and the Irish Government, supported by various voices from within the EU, that nobody wants to go back to having a hard border, the desire to retain the common travel area subject to Mrs May's work to not undermine immigration objectives, and then the dimension of the peace process. We have here a certain logic of a British position, and set against that, political objectives. The very practical question is what practical policies have to be put in place to achieve those political objectives. That is at the core of what we are going to be faced with in the negotiation.

I want to talk about the broad trade and economy and I want to focus specifically on the agrifood sector. We will look at the focus on the wider economy, first within the Republic of Ireland. What is the economic damage and where is it going to come from as a result of Brexit? There are two basic aspects. One is the assumption that we refer to in the status report that we produced last week which the committee has been provided with. It is a reasonable medium-term assumption that the value of sterling, vis-à-vis, the euro, is going to be lower than it otherwise would have been. That is a medium-term reality and that is going to put pressure on Irish competitiveness. The second is that as we move away from British membership of the Single Market and customs union it would translate into trade barriers. These are the transmission mechanisms whereby economic damage can be done.

What is it likely to add up to? The most recent and most cogent attempt to assess this was provided last week by the Department of Finance in its testimony to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. There were three core conclusions. First there will be, as a result of a hard Brexit, a reduction of national wealth, a possible 30% fall in exports to the UK, a rise in unemployment with 40,000 fewer people employed in the economy over ten years. The work that the Department of Finance and the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, have done in modelling would show that again, over a ten year period, Irish GDP would be some 4% smaller than it would be if there was no Brexit.

The overall conclusion has to be - it is very relevant to the wider political discussion - that Ireland's economy is likely to be more seriously affected than any other member state in the European Union. When we turn to Northern Ireland specifically, we have provided the committee with a submission for today, and I want to point to two issues which are dealt with in this submission. One refers to a report that was done by the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Open University Business School in 2015, on attempting to assess what the impact of Brexit would be. I think it would be useful to read into the record the core conclusion that came from this. It refers to the trend rate of growth of the Northern Ireland economy as being about a third lower compared to that of the UK while the comparative unemployment rate is about twice that of the UK as a whole. Thus if the medium forecast for the impact on UK GDP from a Brexit is around 2% lower then it could be expected that trend total GDP would be 3% lower in Northern Ireland. It refers also to this having a knock-on effect on unemployment. So there is real evidence to suggest that because of the structural weakness of the Northern Ireland economy, any negative impact that Brexit will have on the UK will be amplified in the case of Northern Ireland.

The second area relates to foreign direct investment. Clearly Northern Ireland, because of how the economy is structured, with a large level of public sector employment, needs more private investment and more foreign direct investment. The effort to put in a 12.5% rate corporation tax in Northern Ireland as part of a recent agreement from a couple of years ago was designed to do that.

The fear is that Brexit will actually take us in the opposite direction in that it will not be possible to realise the benefit of the 12.5% rate that would otherwise be realised. Ireland had success with a lower taxation rate because it gave access to the wider European Community.

I would like to turn to the agrifood sector which is of major importance and has not received sufficient attention up to now. I want to touch briefly on a few areas. I acknowledge the similarities between the agrifood sectors North and South. I shall consider the current trade realities and how the sectors in Ireland and the United Kingdom are integrated. I shall then examine what a hard Brexit would mean in tariff rates for the agrifood sector and, finally, take a look at some of the more medium to longer-term perspectives.

Let us consider the similarities. In both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the agrifood sectors have a higher economic importance than in most other countries and are more dependent on exportation to other parts of the European Union. They are highly dependent on Common Agricultural Policy income supports as a proportion of net farm income. On page 7 of our submission we consider some of the comparisons between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Britain. Let us keep it as simple as possible. In 2014, in the Republic, direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy amounted to 60% of net farm income. In Northern Ireland the figure was 91%. That has remained and is likely to remain the case. Net farm income in Northern Ireland is very much dependent on the CAP support arrangements.

With regard to trade and market realities, there is a huge interconnection between the two economies. The United Kingdom is Ireland's largest market for food and drink exports, accounting for 41% of all such exports. The market was valued at €4.4 billion in 2015. Some 52% of beef exports and 30% of dairy exports from Ireland go to the United Kingdom. On the other side of the coin, Irish food and drink imports from the United Kingdom in 2015 were worth €3.1 billion.

The cross-Border trade in the agrifood sector is remarkable in respect of a number of products. One billion litres of milk are imported from Northern Ireland each year. Half a million pigs are sent from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland for processing, while some 300,000 lambs are sent in the other direction. This is part of normal logic; different things are done in different parts of the country. There are more complex supply chain arrangements which I do not really have the time to go into. What if we are to have a hard Brexit and the United Kingdom applies WTO rules which is what it is talking about as an alternative? Based on the Department of Finance's figures and the tariff levels that would apply to Irish produce going to the United Kingdom, meat products would be subject to tariffs at a rate of 50%, dairy produce and eggs at a rate of 25% and processed meat products at a rate of 35%. Clearly, tariff barriers of this scale would have a major impact on prices and income levels, with considerable implications for trade on the island of Ireland.

When we look to the medium and longer term in regard to agricultural policy, we must separate out the two strands. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland both have stability in funding up to 2020 under current EU funding arrangements. Beyond that date, there will have to be a new multi-annual financial framework, on which negotiations will have to start in the next couple of years. With the withdrawal of the United Kingdom's contribution to that budget, decisions to be taken on funding under the Common Agricultural Policy, for example, will become a lot harder to make. The outcome of the multi-annual financial framework negotiations will be central to Irish Government policy in the next couple of years. In the case of Northern Ireland, it is a good deal more complex. First, we start with the reality that net farm income in Northern Ireland is much more dependent on subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy than other places, certainly the Republic of Ireland. The UK Government has guaranteed funding levels up to 2020, but beyond that date there will have to be a new UK agricultural policy. From the estimates produced in our submission, we conclude that just to make up what the current subsidies provide for Northern Ireland farmers, at least an additional £300 million will be required to be added to the block grant in Northern Ireland. In the context of the considerable effort made on the part of the British Government to cut public expenditure, the notion that Northern Ireland will be able to receive an extra £300 million, in addition to the block grant, to maintain current farm supports seems highly problematic.

There is a longer term issue regarding what shape UK farm policy will take. There is a very strong possibility that the United Kingdom will be tempted to move back to a cheap food policy, the policy it had effectively from the middle of the 19th century until 1970. That would put the Northern Ireland agrifood sector in a position of extreme vulnerability in the next five to ten years.

I started by saying we had high-level political wishes not to have a hard border, to have a common travel area and to protect the peace process, but we must negotiate the practical policies to achieve this. However, that is going to be very difficult and I have spelled out some of the consequences of not achieving these objectives. This is at the heart of the negotiations. In overall terms, a hard Brexit would be bad for Ireland, North and South. It would represent a major inhibitor to the development of the all-island economy, on which significant progress has been made in the past two decades. Northern Ireland, because of its economic structure, particularly of its farming sector, is particularly vulnerable. That is the challenge we face. That is ultimately the answer to what the committee is attempting to assess, namely, the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement.

I will now take questions. I will take two contributors at a time, beginning with Deputy Fergus O'Dowd who will be followed by Senator Mark Daly.

I welcome the two delegates and acknowledge their very important address and research and the clarity of their remarks. They have put their finger on the problems and how extreme they will be. The analysis of the Department of Finance is exceptionally clear, but its outlook is predicated on there being minimum intervention by the Government. It shows the worst possible scenario, but, nonetheless, a very stark one that we cannot allow to happen.

My question relates to what Dáithí O'Ceallaigh said about the excellent relationship for decades between the British and the Irish at both political and civil servant level. It seems the only way to address issues arising regarding a hard or a soft Brexit, or an invisible border, is to focus on the relationship that could be agreed between Britain and Ireland, particularly concerning the common travel area, about which the delegates spoke. If the greatest danger is posed to the agrifood and agriculture sectors, it would be desirable for the British, the Irish and the Northern Irish to agree on a way forward together.

Turkey has a special relationship with the EU on some produce that can cross EU boundaries without any tariffs or penalties. We need to seek such an agreement in terms of our agriculture and other key exports. The advantage for the UK is that it needs good, high quality food. It needs it fresh and it needs it now. It needs a workforce that can speak English. We have a huge history of Britain being the destination for many of our emigrants and families. Therefore, there is a lot to build on. Do the witnesses think that is the only way we can really deal with this issue? Otherwise, the implication of Brexit, hard or soft, is the repartition of Ireland and the destruction of the economy, particularly in the North.

A total of 70% of the tourists that visit Northern Ireland reach the North through the Republic. Many issues such as that mean that Northern Ireland would suffer disproportionately as a result of Brexit. I do not know if the questions are clear to the witnesses. The big barrier to all of this is that there cannot officially be a negotiation between Britain and Ireland as such, but in actual fact the communications and discussions are ongoing every day. I would be interested in the views of the witnesses on those points.

I will take the questions of Senator Daly and then we will return to the witnesses.

In the 1930s, there was an economic war between Ireland and Britain. This is a version of an economic war in that the UK pulling out of the EU will effectively create trade barriers that are going to destroy elements and some sectors of the Irish economy in some instances. The witnesses touched upon the political statements. The Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, said that there was no desire to return to a hard border. However, when she had the portfolio of Home Secretary, she insisted that there would be a hard border. We can take everything she says with a pinch of salt depending on which hat she chooses to wear.

The issue of the Border is of huge concern to this committee with regard to whether it is going to be reimposed in terms of physical checks. From everything I have read and seen, because Britain is tearing up the four freedoms of goods, people, services and capital, the EU will insist that we put in a hard border. The Commissioner, who was here this week, has said that. If Ireland signs up to the rules of the EU in terms of the four freedoms, we must abide by those rules if a country like Great Britain does not do so.

The witness touched on the Norwegian model but that is entirely different. Britain does not want that model. It has basically said that it is not going to sign up for the freedom of people. Therefore, the Norwegian model does not apply. There will not be a case in which her Royal Majesty's customs officials will go into County Louth to look at the back of somebody's truck. I could not imagine that they would ever have dreamed of doing so. That is not going to happen. We need to stop talking about options that Britain itself has ruled out and look at the hard reality.

The freedom of movement across the Border is far more important to us than the common travel area. The common travel area sounds great, but everybody who goes to an airport has to hand in a passport. Their identity is already checked. Going down a different chute in Heathrow Airport if they happen to go to England once in a blue moon does not add a hill of beans to their existence. What does matter is the 12,000 people who go from the Republic to the North every day to go to work, the 8,000 who go from the North to the South every day to go to work and the thousands who cross the Border as part of their normal existence to see their farm, neighbours and friends. That is the hard reality.

Putting 40,000 people on the Border, as Mr. Bertie Ahern pointed out, did not seal the Border. Yet, between 1939 and 1952, there were passport checks between Northern Ireland and Britain. They checked everybody going from Belfast, Derry and Larne. Today, they racially profile people who are getting on boats and planes under Operation Gull. They will upscale that when the UK leaves the EU because everybody will see Ireland as a back door. It will not be very hard to get across the Border. People will try to get to Britain through that back door. Britain will check everybody going across the sea from Northern Ireland. Yet it will also insist on trying to seal a Border that, in the height of the Troubles when lives were on the line, could not be sealed with 40,000 people. It is going to cause an economic calamity between the North and the South, impinge upon people's daily lives and also put the peace process at risk.

The House of Lords report, which I am sure the witnesses have seen, has ruled out moving the Border between these islands, even though it is the most practical thing to do and even though it is what they are doing already on a racially-profiled basis with Operation Gull. They are going to formalise Operation Gull and do it as a matter of course when the UK formally leaves the EU. For all the issues we keep talking about that the UK keeps ruling out, would it not be more honest for us to start saying that if we want to keep the Border open, the real border checks will have to be between these two islands?

The economic issues, which I know my colleagues will talk about, are a catastrophe. It is beyond reckoning how bad it is going to get. This really is a slow car crash. We are looking for proposals from the witnesses in terms of outlining the problems, which is helpful, because there are so many. In reality, we should be putting forward the case for Ireland and for the people of this island. The House of Lords is ruling out doing something that the UK did between 1939 and 1952, but would make a huge difference to a lot of people's lives if the UK put the Border where it used to be for nearly 13 years.

Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh

Deputy O'Dowd had a question about the common travel area. I believe it is difficult. However, if the two Governments can between them come up with some sort of reasonable solution and put it into the negotiating framework between the UK and the EU, we might find something for the common travel area that will fly. That is what I think, though I am not certain.

Going back to the point made by Senator Daly, the real issue here is whether the Republic is going to be seen as a backdoor for non-Irish EU citizens to get into the UK. That has to be addressed. During the war, as the Senator rightly said, it was addressed by having a control border for people from this island, North and South, arriving in the UK. In those days, of course, they almost all arrived by boat. There was very little air travel, if any. It might be a little bit more difficult to control now. During the war, people living in Northern Ireland had to carry identity cards, even though they were citizens of the UK. Their identity cards were checked as they went into Great Britain. Politically, there are a lot of people in Northern Ireland who would not like to have that in the future, but that is what happened during the Second World War. It is an issue and one to which nobody can provide a solution at this stage. We just do not know.

I am not so sure that tourism will be a big problem. When the British talk about the migration of EU citizens into Britain, they are talking about settlement rather than tourism. We all know that there are very many countries in which one can travel as a tourist for three months or six months and it does not present the slightest difficulty. The difficulty lies when one wants to settle or, as in the United States, overstay one's welcome. I do not foresee much difficulty on the tourism front. However, if there are controls of some kind on the Border, be it passport controls or whatever, it might be an issue.

The reality is that there are going to be differences on trade that will require regulation, however they are regulated. Likewise, there are going to be differences on migration that will require regulation, no matter how they are regulated. I do not know how this is going to work.

As regards movement across the Border for work purposes, a possible example is Switzerland which has tight rules on working but where, for many years, there were arrangements with the French, the Germans and the Italians whereby people could travel across the border, work freely and return home in the evening. It should be possible to find technical solutions to the question of Northern Ireland people who work for five or six days a week in the South and vice versa. That can be done because it has been done for years in Switzerland.

Mr. Tom Arnold

We are at an early stage of the process and part of the challenge we face is to come up with evidence to demonstrate, conclusively, that the costs for Ireland are going to be much larger than for anyone else. We need to argue from that political base and then we need to see where practical solutions can be found. It makes a great deal of sense, both for Britain and Ireland, to have as free an arrangement for the agrifood sector as possible. The way supply chains operate between Britain and Ireland makes the argument for this and we should be able to find a lot of solutions. It will come down to a degree of goodwill and we will have to do it in the context of the relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU. Space has to be found for an appreciation of the particular problems Ireland has and willingness is needed to come up with practical and innovative solutions to the problems.

We have been talking about Brexit for the past year and we will probably talk about it for another few years but it reminds me of the phoney war before the Second World War when there were eight months of no military manoeuvres and then all hell broke loose. This has been a phoney war so far but we are now coming up to the time when the trouble starts. We discussed the Norway-Sweden border at a Brexit fact-finding meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Belfast last Monday but it is very different from the Border between the Republic of Ireland and the North. It is rural and mountainous and there are not too many crossing points and while it may be an option it will be politically very difficult for customs in both jurisdictions.

I have spoken to many diplomats and they told me of the difficulties that there were with the isolationist relationship between the Republic and Northern Ireland, and between the Republic and the United Kingdom, up until the late 1960s and 1970s. The Minister for Foreign Affairs often meets the Foreign Secretary but that simply did not happen in those days. There was not much co-operation between the two islands at the time. The point that 1973 was a game changer, with our entry into the EEC along with Great Britain, is correct. It worries me that we might lose a lot of good organisations such as the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, the North-South Ministerial Council and the North-South interparliamentary association. Every day at least 26 meetings take place in Europe involving Irish officials and politicians and we are going to lose that. How will we replace that vacuum? What can we do to ensure we never go back to a situation where the lines of communication are not open for difficult situations? The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly meets in committee meetings and for two or three days every six months. I am afraid that the dialogue, the friendships and the political understandings built up over the past 20 years will break down when the UK leaves the EU. Do the witnesses have any suggestions for what we can do to ensure those links are maintained and enhanced?

We seem to have been hearing nothing but grim outlooks for the past number of months and one could start to get depressed and to have mood swings over what appears to be a huge difficulty for the all-Ireland economy. However, 100 jobs were announced for Dundalk today by Almac, which clearly wants to keep its options open over which side of the Border it is best to operate from. I was delighted to hear Mr. Arnold mention solutions because there is a uniqueness in what has just happened, both for Britain and for Europe. There is a need for creativity and imagination to find a solution.

Mr. O'Ceallaigh spoke of the loss of the political interaction and Senator Feighan referred to the various meetings that take place. I am equally concerned at the interaction that will not happen on either side of the Border, such as local authorities co-operating on schemes and in committees to deliver seamless services North and South. I would hope that organisations such as the East Border Region and ICBAN, or CAWT in the area of health co-operation, will not end up counting for naught because this would affect people.

The question of how the Border would be controlled came up. It is 499 km long and has 380 roads, 38 of which are in County Louth. Any interference with the invisibility of the Border at these points will impact on trade and people. The Taoiseach has spoken about technology but there will be an inevitable slowing down of the movement of goods. Hauliers are already extremely worried and they are already being impacted on by the taxes that have been imposed by the British Government when moving North.

I want to ask about the common travel area. Neither the UK nor Ireland joined the Schengen area because we had common movement, North and South. I am led to believe we have no information systems for this purpose. The British Government uses the Schengen information system, even though it is not part of the Schengen Agreement, but there is no control over our Borders, whether this is at ports or airports. I am not thinking of the movement of migrants in this regard but of paedophiles and undesirables and this will be part of a major problem going forward.

The various sectors have been talking about the problems but this needs to be about solutions. Politicians can talk at the most senior level but anyone living along the Border has to deal with farm gate issues and some officials in Brussels, as well as those who advocated for this exit, need to be shown that they are not really representing the periphery of their regions.

I hope that as regards this bespoke solution, as well as with creative and imaginative thinking, we can get to that level of discussion. I am suggesting that on foot of this meeting, from here on, we need to examine the solutions rather than the problems.

Mr. Tom Arnold

I fully agree. That is what we need to start moving towards. In terms of the relationship issue, I take Mr. O'Ceallaigh's point on board that the UK leaving would mean a qualitative shift. However, we are not going to go back to the 1970s. There is a basis of equality in the relationship now which has been built up over decades and that is not going to change. All I think it means is that, to use the car advertisement slogan, maybe Britain and Ireland will have to try harder to protect those relationships.

The agreement between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach in 2012 set up a formal structure of consultation between both Administrations. For example, every year the permanent secretaries of Government Departments on either side meet each other. I happened to be in the UK shortly after that happened last October and the sort of relationship building that has developed there over a number of years has been valuable.

Part of the Good Friday Agreement institutions may have the potential in future to be further developed and built upon. It will however require a conscious political effort to do that. We must be conscious that if we are losing something by Britain not being part of the EU set-up, then Ireland and the UK will have to work harder to ensure that their own relationships are important.

Can Mr. O'Ceallaigh deal with the CTA and Schengen? It is more within his competency.

Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh

Yes. I would like to add something to what Mr. Arnold said. There is room for development in the North-South and east-west organisations, bodies such as the British-Irish parliamentary group and the British-Irish Council. They could for example meet more frequently and be opened more widely to discuss different issues. If the British pull out, and they are pulling out, we are going to lose that constant interaction in Brussels. Therefore, we have to try to replace it with many more meetings across the Border with local authorities, the British-Irish parliamentary groups, visits by the Oireachtas to Northern Ireland and so on. There are many ways in which the relationships which have been built up since the Good Friday Agreement, as Mr. Arnold rightly mentioned, can be developed further to try to compensate for what we are losing in Brussels.

It is clear, however, and we should not miss it, that the Commission in particular is concerned not to lose the advantages which have accrued over the last 20 years by the support which the Commission and the European institutions gave in Northern Ireland and across the Border. The sort of problems that were mentioned, including meetings of authorities across the Border, the use of a hospital in Derry by people from Donegal or vice versa, should all become, and I am certain will become, part of the negotiations. The Irish Government will ensure that those issues are brought into the negotiations. I would suggest that the more of those problems one finds that require practical solutions, the more they should be fed to the Irish Government so that they can be raised in the negotiations to obtain better outcomes.

I am not an expert in the justice area but I do know that there is close contact between the justice authorities in this country, particularly the Garda Síochána, and what is going on in Europol, Forex and various European organisations that are trying to deal with international crime. Schengen is slightly different. It is all about control of entry into the European Union. Once such controlled entry is permitted, people are then free to move around the EU. We are not in Schengen because we are in the travel area with the UK and perhaps that is something we may have to look at. From my little experience of it, however, I think the practical co-operation between security and intelligence forces across Europe is very good.

I now call Dr. McDonnell followed by Deputy Brendan Smith.

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell

I thank both Mr. O'Ceallaigh and Mr. Arnold for a succinct but nevertheless powerful presentation. I expected no less from either of them. I can get worried about various aspects of the economy. I get particularly worried about agriculture. While we mention the style of arrangements in Norway and Turkey, agriculture does not feature in either of those. To the best of my knowledge agriculture is left out and in the Norwegian case heavy duties are placed on agricultural produce. I know from some very capable people in the dairying industry that the dairying aspect of agriculture is most vulnerable in terms of the damage it will suffer. I was fascinated by some evidence that Dr. Mike Johnston of Dairy UK gave to the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee.

I will touch on the comments that Mr. O'Ceallaigh has just made. The nub of all this is that it is ultimately threatening our settlement of 1998, the Good Friday Agreement. To my mind, the British have emotionally abandoned, stepped back or are trying to abandon that settlement, although they want to take the advantages of it. We removed Articles 2 and 3 from the Constitution in order to get a settlement and stability, but there is little or no acceptance on the part of the British or some elements of unionism that there is an Irish dimension in the North. In fact, they feel that we should all be unionists from now on in their day-to-day attitudes. What do we do therefore? How does Mr. Arnold see us pulling together?

Margaret Ritchie, Mark Durkan and I are three fairly lonely individuals in the House of Commons trying to make a case among 650 MPs. There might be ten or 12 of those 650 who will listen attentively - I am talking about the English MPs. There is certainly an attentive audience in the Scottish Nationalists. How do we all pull on the same green jersey and make this thing work for all of us? If things become unstuck in the North - this is not a threat or a scare - and it becomes destabilised again, the whole island becomes destabilised. We do not need that, North or South, so how do we unite and find mechanisms? Others were talking about solutions but how do we get a cohesive strategy?

I have been most impressed by the evidence and discussion of the IIEA, this committee and others. To some extent each bit of it is like a jigsaw sitting in isolation until it is all put together. Some of us point to the Government concerning this big challenge. There is a lot the Government can do, but there are things the Government cannot do. We have to find a way of maximising the contribution that each of us can bring to this. If we do not get that strategy, backbone or spine right all the other work we do will be lost and we will not maximise its value. Perhaps that is too much of a tall order but I am looking here at Mr. O'Ceallaigh's previous career as one of our outstanding diplomats.

He has been around all of these places. We need such people to steer us by outlining how they would have tackled the problem 15 or 20 years ago. Many people are concerned about this matter. We do even have - perhaps they are not very outspoken - people from a unionist background in the North who are concerned. They are very pro-remain yet find themselves isolated. For me, the magic of this issue is that it breaks away from the old sectarian divide and we have an opportunity to hold a new discussion with new terms on how we take the island of Ireland forward.

I compliment Mr. Arnold and Mr. O'Ceallaigh on their excellent presentations. I am sure they have been influenced by their vast experience of working in national and international public administration. They have outlined the facts in a cold analytical way and the grave challenges that face all of our island.

Mr. Arnold provided statistics on farm incomes and outlined how dependent Northern Ireland farmers are on a transfer of funds from the European Union. It is a pity the matter was not addressed at meetings held by the farm organisations in the Six Counties in advance of their vote to leave the EU. It beggars belief that people from that community voted to leave the EU. Some people must think the British Empire will come back. It is not coming back.

Eighteen months ago we argued on this committee that we had not realised the potential of the Good Friday Agreement and should have pushed for more all-island bodies. However, we are at this juncture. As I have mentioned at previous committee meetings, when one analyses the huge progress that has been made since 1998 one discovers there has been a huge development of trade on a North-South basis and vice versa. I do not think the official statistics, both North and South, capture the great economic development that has occurred in the Border regions, in particular, and further afield.

The following is often omitted from commentary. We have many small enterprises, North and South, whose sole market is on the other side of the Border. Many small enterprises in my constituency, which is comprised of two southern Ulster counties, depend on the Northern Ireland market as their only outlet, apart from the South.

The delegation has highlighted the importance of the agrifood sector and the negative impact that will result when Britain leaves the European Union. The South exports a lot of product and goods to parts of Europe and outside of the European continent. Most of that product must pass through Britain. Sometimes a product leaves an EU member state, goes into a non-EU member State, goes back into a European State on mainland Europe and finally exits in order to reach another destination. With Brexit it is hard to think that there will not be a tariff or impediment to trade at some point along the way. I have asked the Taoiseach whether there were figures available that analyse the level of export products that transit Britain with a final destination that is further afield. Unfortunately the figures are unavailable. I think we have underestimated the difficulties that will arise in the export sector.

The agrifood sector is the mainstay of the rural economy in Ireland. It will be hit hard by Brexit. Let us remember that it is always difficult to regenerate or create jobs in the agrifood sector. I am glad that the delegation has put a strong focus on the challenges that face the agrifood sector.

Like myself Mr. Arnold has experienced agriculture meetings in Europe. I have never heard the British Minister or his officials argue for more money to be distributed through the CAP programme to farmers in Northern Ireland. Those farmers think that the £300 million plus will be compensated for by a direct payment by Westminster. They are fooling themselves because I know the attitude of successive British Government to funding for the agricultural sector.

Another important development that is always laudable is the development of major food companies on an all-Ireland basis. The programme has been given huge impetus since the late 1990s. One can think of the main dairy producers. In my own constituency there is Lakeland Dairies, the Town of Monaghan Co-Op Limited and LacPatrick. They are all-Ireland companies that have sites on both sides of the Border. As the witnesses have rightly pointed out, raw materials travel North and South. There will be great difficulties if we have two regimes in terms of sanitary standards, etc. We need to identify the challenges and create an awareness about them among the public at large.

Dr. McDonnell has made the good point, as did Mr. Mark Durkan in different fora that I have heard him speak in, that we must safeguard the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement and its workings. I have no doubt that the vast majority of MPs in Westminster have not lost sleep about the Good Friday Agreement in the context of Brexit.

Again, I thank the witnesses for their excellent contributions.

Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh

We are in new territory. As I said at the outset it is very uncertain and unpredictable. We just do not know where it will end up.

I agree that it is critical to preserve the fundamentals of the Good Friday Agreement. As I said before, there is a lot of goodwill in Brussels. Therefore, we have to bring to Brussels our concerns about preserving the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. It would be helpful if we got agreement with the British Government in advance.

I am minded by what Deputy Smith has said. Mr. Craig Oliver was in charge of Brexit communications in Number 10. At the end of the campaign he wrote a book that was based on his diaries entitled Unleashing Demons: The Inside Story of Brexit. In the book he described the campaign carried out by the British Government to win a vote to remain but Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were not mentioned once. That is the realty. We have to play to our advantage but we need to know the playing field. It would be useful if we ensured that the principles underlining the Good Friday Agreement, in which the Europeans had a hand, formed part of the eventual outcome of the negotiations between the British and Irish.

Brexit is a political problem in Northern Ireland. Some politicians and political parties in Northern Ireland were not necessarily pro-Brexit but now that the vote has been cast and the United Kingdom as a whole has voted for Brexit, they have rowed in behind it. That means both Unionist parties, whereas the SDLP and Sinn Féin remain opposed.

On the transport issue, before Austria joined the EU it imposed a tax on European lorries crossing Austrian territory. With Brexit it is possible that a tax will be imposed on Irish lorries, many of whom travel across British territory. That is the sort of thing that should be pinned down in the negotiations. Britain should be told that it cannot impose a tax or tariff.

It would be worthwhile for the committee to find out, through talking to people, what problems exist and have them brought to the attention of the Irish Government. I have been out of government for a long time. From my experience, I know that the Irish Government is capable, competent and committed to the future of this island. The more it knows about the problems then the greater the possibility of finding solutions with its European partners that are not opposed to finding a solution to this particular problem of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tom Arnold

Very briefly and particularly to address Dr. Alasdair McDonnell's issue as to how we are to work together to get our message across, it comes down to two basic points. One is that we must have complete clarity of evidence setting out why this issue is so critically important to the future of this country and we need to pull together that evidence which will show that if we go down a particular road, it will have a particular consequence. Second, and hand in hand with this, and this goes back to Deputy Breathnach's point, we have to come up with corresponding solutions or proposals for solutions.

As regards who is responsible, there is a wide range of responsibility. The Government is responsible, as is this committee and other committees through the focus they are bringing to this issue. We need to get the wider community talking about how much this matters. Some of this is being done through the All-Island Civic Dialogue forum, which met on 2 November and is meeting again on 17 February, and in the interim period a whole set of sectoral meetings have taken place. The more we can get clarity of thought and clarity of proposed solutions, the better. That is the basis for going forward. Organisations like ourselves also have a responsibility in terms of the types of connections we have with other think tanks in Europe to hammer home these same points.

I call Senator Craughwell to be followed by Mr. Mark Durkan, MP.

I apologise for not being here for the witnesses' presentations. I had to attend an address by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the Seanad and what I heard there did not instill much hope in me.

I wish to put matters in perspective and I apologise if I am going back over old ground. A total of 10,905 Irish students are studying in the UK; 23% of our goods are exported to the UK, valued at €26 billion; 41% of our agricultural produce, which is €4 in every €10, is exported to the UK; 35% of our food, beverage and tobacco products are exported to the UK, involving 150,000 jobs; and 45% of our basic metals, 35% of our leather and textile products and 85% of our dairy products are exported to the UK, on which exports 9,500 jobs depend. A total of 47,200 people are employed in the transport industry and I heard from the witnesses that a tax might apply to trucks passing through the UK. That scares the living hell out of me. A total of 16,791 second hand cars were imported from Britain into this country last year. All of that is about economics, money moving backwards and forward and all of the things that might be interfered with by tariffs. Those of us who are old enough will remember what it was like to queue up at the Border and wait to get through it but such a queue will certainly not help our 47,200 jobs involved in our transport industry.

A central problem is that we cannot have a bilateral conversation with the UK, our nearest trading neighbour, which probably takes the largest single amount of our goods and services, because the European Union says "No" to that. Representatives of the Border Communities Against Brexit appeared before this committee a few weeks ago. They gave us all the economic facts and figures as well but they cited one other element, namely, the rise of the old angst that existed between the two traditions in Northern Ireland, the rise of smuggling, criminality and all of that.

Deputy Brendan Smith or Deputy Breathnach mentioned previous situations were people who wanted to go to mass on a Sunday have had to travel many more miles to get there because a big hole had to be blown up in the road that was closest to the church to stop people crossing unapproved roads. When I consider all of this, I find it to be not very helpful, having come from the Seanad where I heard the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade say that Brussels understands and our colleagues understand our problems. Then I look at the UK Supreme Court ruling, on which we had a discussion earlier today, and I do not want to go into it because we will allocate some time to it, but it is safe to say at this stage that the Supreme Court ruling has placed the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. For the short time I have been here listening to Mr. O'Ceallaigh and Mr. Arnold, they have probably given rise to even greater fears in me. Their understanding of what is going on is clearly ahead of many people around here.

The Good Friday Agreement is what it is all about. The rest of these things can be resolved through negotiations but when we consider the amount of things we have to negotiate, I think it will take 20 years to negotiate our way through what is here when we get down to the micro level. The Good Friday Agreement is where the freedom of movement comes into play. One can sit in one's car, drive to Belfast and not be stopped on the way. That is the most important aspect.

In terms of the political uncertainty, and I do not want to delve into or interfere in the politics of Northern Ireland, but for the first time in my life I was attacked on social media by a member of the other tradition, the unionist tradition. It is no secret around this table that I served in the British army and some of my unionist friends, or those who would be of the unionist persuasion, jumped to my defence. Is that where we are headed? When Mr. O'Ceallaigh made the point that there is no mention of Ireland or Northern Ireland in some of the documentation coming out of Westminster, that gives me a fair idea of where we are going. The worst form of nationalism is driving Brexit. I will understand if Mr. O'Ceallaigh does not want to comment on that but, from my perspective, that is the way it looks. It looks as if the UK is pandering to a particular mindset. In so doing, is it possible that the UK would chuck Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement onto the pyre of past interests?

There is a desperate need for this committee to have people like Mr. Arnold and Mr. O'Ceallaigh advising it. They are people with independent minds who can come in here and give it to us straight. They spoke about cross-Border institutions and in their documentation they see no real reason that should change. However, it will change if Article 50 is triggered without legislation in place to protect the Good Friday Agreement. There will be no cross-Border institutions and there will be no requirement for them because there will be no Good Friday Agreement. I am not sure that we are going the right way here. They may not feel comfortable commenting on this but I believe we need a single point of contact in this country dealing with Brexit. We need a senior Minister, somebody with an economic background, perhaps the Minister, Deputy Bruton, or somebody else, appointed to oversee Brexit. The UK has appointed somebody and we need somebody.

I agree with the witnesses about dealing with our friends in Europe. We have got to be over there talking to them all the time. Colleagues of mine have been over there and I have been there. I have brought up the unique Irish problem and the answer I have got was at best benign. I brought up the unique Irish problem at a conference at which I was the only speaker from Ireland and when I did so the chair thanked me for my input and said we need to move on to discuss the concept of a European army. That concept throws one other constitutional problem at our feet, namely, our total opposition to being involved in any sort of a European army.

I must ask the Senator to conclude.

I am anxious to know how prepared the witnesses think we are. I will conclude on that note.

Thank you, Deputy. I call Mr. Mark Durkan, MP, and then we will hear any concluding remarks the witnesses may have.

Mr. Mark Durkan

Like other members, I want to particularly thank both witnesses, given the breadth and depth of their respective experience, as others have commented. They have insight which probably leaves them better qualified at foresight than nearly anybody else might be on this very uncertain and uncharted situation in which we find ourselves.

The witnesses have covered a number of points with regard to the sectoral impacts. Those points have been very well brought out. As I said at a previous meeting, this is an antidote to many people's assumption that there will be a crock of gold at the end of the Brexit rainbow for farmers and others in the North.

I would like to ask the witnesses about some of the issues we will face as we go forward. They recognise that there are big challenges and uncertainties. They have said that some working opportunities may emerge from some of the channels for co-operation and engagement that exist.

My first question relates to the working of strand 2 of the Agreement. It should not be underestimated that when negotiations took place in the aftermath of the Agreement regarding what a North-South body should be - the Agreement itself provided that there would be at least six implementation bodies - the political reality was that there was unionist resistance to bodies having any kind of meaningful scope, any kind of mission or any possibility for expansion. The test rule for them was that it had to be co-operation of purely mutual interest that would be happening anyway.

It is clear when one examines the main business of most of the implementation bodies that they are focused on EU funding or on compliance with EU regulations. The work of the Special EU Programmes Body and Waterways Ireland relates to directives and the management of funding. InterTrade Ireland is probably the most market-facing of the bodies. Much of what it does is about raising awareness of European challenge funds and other innovative opportunities and areas of co-operation. Much of the work of the Food Safety Promotion Board relates to compliance. Obviously, the Loughs Agency builds on a previous model. Much of its work involves environmental directives and other common issues. While it might be distinctive to hear certain phrases, a large part of the cover for much of the work of the Language Body is in the context of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

If we do not have the commonality of interest, the funding or the compliance questions provided by the EU, what will we have in terms of strand 2 and the working arrangements under strand 2? We will be talking about very thin fillings in the strand 2 sandwich. That will become a key political issue because people will say the Agreement is not working in the same terms they expected. That is quite apart from the failure of the Agreement to develop beyond those six bodies, which had their budgets cut in the name of austerity a few years ago and were subject to value for money tests as a result of the St. Andrews review.

The other side of the St. Andrews Agreement was the promise that there could be new areas of co-operation. It was suggested that the reviews could look at other work, but nothing has ever developed from that. When many of us look at this, we say we cannot be complacent and we are not reassured by those who suggest everything will work out and will be taken forward in a post-Brexit situation. Very little has happened. Strand 2 has been run low and has stayed slow for a long time now. It is hard to see how this would not continue after Brexit. That is one of the reasons this issue and other Brexit issues will loom much larger than many people realise when negotiations take place after the election. All of these issues might not be resolved in time for the formation of an executive within the deadline. They might be part of a wider negotiation, possibly using some of the review mechanisms under the Agreement.

I note what has been said about strand 3 and the British-Irish Council. It is probable that there are a number of areas in which it might be easier to engage Whitehall's interest in the potential for co-operation and engagement. When Whitehall departments are not sending as many officials to various meetings in Brussels and elsewhere, they might well have more time to look at other potential forms of co-operation. Of course that raises a political tension that arose when the Agreement was being negotiated. Some people did not want strand 2 to exist at all. They said it should be a mere subset of strand 3. This opportunity brings potential political tension with it.

It has been suggested that the Commission would have a strong interest in being concerned not to lose the advantages that have accrued over the process. I think that is a huge asset for us in the time ahead. The problem is that it is not clear that the degrees of will and interest that exist and will continue to exist on the part of the Irish Government are understood or appreciated by the British Government or by some of the parties in the North.

The best opportunity to bring this reality to the situation is to say that some European funds could continue to flow on the island of Ireland on a cross-Border basis, with the North enjoying something of a lean-to status, in operational terms, with the South. That is what many of us want to see when we talk about special status. It relates to Single Market and customs arrangements as well. It is a question of allowing the North to have this sort of status. Other people have touched on this aspect of the matter in their commentary on the immigration question. It has been suggested that these matters should be considered in the context of the island of Ireland, rather than focusing on the divide within the island.

As Mr. O'Ceallaigh has said, the question of being able to identify and dispense European funding will need to be addressed in the negotiations. We cannot assume it will be taken care of afterwards. If there is anything we can take out of this week's Supreme Court ruling, it is that one cannot rely on the political understanding one has unless one builds it into legislation and actual negotiated treaties. That is the signal warning that comes from the Supreme Court ruling. We have to address these issues now in the context of the wider negotiations.

I would like to speak about the possibility of making specific provision in any new UK-EU treaty for the Good Friday Agreement in respect of the constitutional question. If we ensure that in the event of a referendum on unity, there is no question mark over Northern Ireland's immediate access as part of a united Ireland to the EU, we could prevent the sorts of questions that arose in Scotland from being used to create an external impediment to the democratic potential for unity. If the North had such a differentiated status in a UK-EU treaty, that could create the ambit for the North being able to avail of access to EU funding that would probably come via the Irish Government and the strand 2 mechanisms of the Agreement, rather than coming through the UK in the previous way.

If this possible means of securing EU funds were provided for, it is likely that the question of matching funding would arise. Perhaps this could be considered in the negotiations that should happen between the British and Irish Governments. I take the point that some people have made about the supposed rubric that there cannot be bilateral negotiations. The Good Friday Agreement provides for a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on sovereign matters. I do not see why it cannot be used in this context to deal with some of these issues.

Mr. Mark Durkan

I do not think there would be outrage or misunderstanding at EU level if we were to talk about these issues in such a context. The Irish Government is already repaying the loan from 2011 in line with its commitment to do so. Perhaps there could be an understanding that some of those moneys, along with matching funding, could be earmarked and streamed to continue to support cross-Border investment in the style we have had from European funding, not just on a North-South basis but possibly to support some east-west work as well.

I invite Mr. Arnold and Mr. O'Ceallaigh to make some concluding remarks.

Mr. Tom Arnold

When we look back over the decades, if someone had said in 1988 which was a difficult year that in ten years we would have something of the complexity and sophistication of the Good Friday Agreement, many would not have believed it. We have a body of, if one likes, creative political possibilities built into it and while perhaps much of it is still unrealised, it is still a framework within which to move forward. What Mr. Durkan said about the possibilities presented by strand 2 which are yet to be realised may be very relevant. Our starting point must be that the European Union sees the creation of a framework for an agreement and the delivery of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent events as important achievements not to be gone back on. That is the political context in which we consider how we should deal with the remarkably difficult Brexit challenge.

There is comment in the press on whether we are going about this in the right way and if it is being taken seriously enough at a national level. My sense is that the answer is "Yes". I think there is a high level of commitment at the centre of both the Government and the Civil Service, although it may not be seen adequately. One has to realise that the big decisions will ultimately be taken at Head of Government level. Therefore, the Brexit Minister has to be the Taoiseach and strategic thinking must be brought to bear to reflect how important the issue is. However, it cannot be left to the Government alone. The parliamentary system and wider civil society have important roles to play. We all have a responsibility. This comes back to the point about the evidence of the potential impact and the solutions to deal with it.

Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh

They will be lengthy and difficult negotiations. The British will argue for their interests which it will try to protect and advance. On the other side, we will have the European Union. During the course of the discussion many of the Irish and Northern Irish interests within the framework of the Good Friday Agremeent have been expressed. They can be protected in the negotiations, but civil society, the committee and people such as us have to ensure those conducting the negotiations - those representing the European Union - are made aware of these concerns through the Government and Irish public servants. I agree fully with Mr. Arnold. The Government is and has been on top of this for a long time, although it is not necessarily speaking very much in public, which is understandable. However, I do not think we can be complacent. This is probably the biggest issue that has faced the country for a long time, but we have been successful. Think of where we were 40 years ago and where we are now. We can protect our interests.

While I accept fully that the Brexit vote, in large measure, was an expression of English and perhaps Welsh nationalism, just as I accept the Trump vote in the United States expressed a certain American nationalism, I do not detect any evidence in London that anyone wants to damage the Good Friday Agreement. I do not think the British want to return to direct rule. No one I know in London wants to go back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago. There is an opportunity for people like those on the committee who support the Good Friday Agreement. Some of the ideas Mr. Durkan proposed are well worth keeping on the table.

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell

Does Mr. O'Ceallaigh accept that some people would like to pick at it and pick out the bits that are hard work for them?

Mr. Dáithí O'Ceallaigh

There are dangers, but I do not know anyone in the British Government who would like to see an end to the Good Friday Agreement or the arrangements brought about in the past 20 years.

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell

There are those who would like to strip out the awkward bits that are costing them. That is where the dilemma lies.

Mr. Mark Durkan

They assume that it will take care of itself, but it will not. Context is everything.

I thank Mr. Arnold and Mr. O'Ceallaigh for their contributions. We will take on board their suggestions about speaking to those most affected. We have been doing that, but we will also be inviting representatives of small enterprise and the agriculture sector, etc. to speak about their experiences.

The joint committee went into private session at 4.25 p.m. and adjourned at 5 p.m until 2 p.m. on Thursday, 9 February 2017.