There are elements of the Good Friday Agreement that are not as definitive as the Senator might like in terms of box ticking. They are about anticipating an evolution of an improved relationship between communities and the obligation to try to promote that. It is an ongoing process and it is not the case that it is done or not done. There are a number of examples of this in the Good Friday Agreement in a way that is broader, and they require a judgment on progress that is not simply a "yes" or "no". Having said that, I do think we could provide a more comprehensive scorecard or an update in terms of implementation. Obviously, given the 20th anniversary next year, it is an appropriate time for us to look at being as comprehensive as we can. I believe the British Government would work with us on this. We are co-guarantors. We both have responsibility for this agreement. We should work together on it to provide as much credibility and co-operation as possible.
I could spend the rest of the next hour speaking about the Border, and I do not want to do that because there are other questions. The Taoiseach and I, in particular, have been very clear on what we are asking for. This has not changed for months. What has changed, perhaps, is the expectation that Ireland might back off on that ask, to a certain extent, when we came under a little bit of pressure, or that we would accept it would be deferred to phase 2 of the Brexit discussions. Some people seem to be surprised this is not happening. Maybe they were not listening when we told them the first time, the second time, the third time or the tenth time, but people are listening now and this is because we have been consistent and firm.
It is not just Ireland taking this position. It is the EU taskforce collectively taking the position also. There is a lot of solidarity for Ireland in terms of our exposure and vulnerability to a bad deal on Brexit from an Irish perspective. It goes way beyond trade and commerce. It is something much deeper than that. It is something that is an historic moment in Irish history, in terms of the relationships on this island and whether we insist on preventing a process going backwards again, in the context of the efforts being made to try to normalise relationships through trade and through, effectively, the evolution of what is largely now an invisible Border. There is certainly no barrier there and that is for sure. When we cross the Border, as many committee members know because they live near there, we do not notice we cross it any more. Even the road markings are no longer different.
We have this fantastic byproduct of a functioning and working peace process, whereby 100,000 store cattle from the west of Ireland cross the Border to be finished in the North every year. Half a million lambs produced on farms in Northern Ireland come South to be slaughtered every year. A total of 40% of the milk from farms in Northern Ireland is processed south of the Border in processing facilities here. We want to encourage more on the island of Ireland this normalisation of movement, industry and commerce, and interaction and buying and selling between people from different communities and backgrounds, with different stories to tell in terms of Northern Ireland's history. This is just agriculture. We could talk about a common electricity market. We could talk about environmental responsibilities. We could talk about health care, in terms of Irish patients being treated north of the Border and the potential for patients in Northern Ireland to be treated in some of our big specialty centres down here.
What we are saying here is we are determined to protect that normalisation, which not only is very much linked to sensible trade and commerce, animal health management, disease control and all of the other things we manage on an all-island basis now, but it is also the bedrock, in my view, that allows the Good Friday Agreement to continue to evolve as a process of reconciliation, normalisation and bedding down peaceful relationships, North and South, and between communities, particularly those living in the Border counties.
Anybody who sees this from afar as simply a trading barrier fundamentally misunderstands the strength of feeling politically in Ireland on this issue. I have made this point very forcefully to some of my counterparts and friends who are negotiating on the British side. As I said earlier, I think Michel Barnier really understands this also. He has come here and spoken to people from communities on the Border, and really made the point that Ireland's problems are Europe's problems in the context of a peace process in which the European Union sees it has played a positive role and certainly does not want these negotiations to undermine it in any way. I have also said I have no intention of being a Minister in a Government that does not prioritise a peace process in the context of these negotiations and its protection. I say this as somebody who, I hope, is reaching out and connecting with Unionist communities, who also care about these issues, as well as Nationalist communities. I have really tried not to turn this into an orange versus green argument, although others, unfortunately, have.
Just to be clear, what we what want from the British Government, in the context of these negotiations before moving on to phase 2, is an acceptance that regulatory divergence between the two jurisdictions would make that North-South co-operation and that normalisation of trade very difficult to continue to implement in practical terms. I hope committee members will not mind me giving a few examples, because this is a key issue and it will become a big issue politically in the coming weeks.
When Northern Ireland leaves the European Union as part of the United Kingdom leaving, if the European Medicines Agency, which signs off on the use of medicines in the European Union, no longer signs for the use of appropriate medicines in Northern Ireland, all of a sudden we will have medical device companies which may have a footprint on both sides of the Border operating to different rules on one side versus the other.
Farmers in Northern Ireland might be not be compliant with the rules of the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, regarding inspections, animal health and their obligations to the environment in terms of cross-compliance. At the moment we have a level playing field for agriculture in the North and South. It is easy to treat the two jurisdictions essentially as the one area when it comes to trade and movement. If there is a different rule book on both sides of the Border, there is no way of avoiding checks. It cannot be done. If there are two different standards on both sides of the Border, there must be checks to see if there is equivalence and if there is fair play in terms of how people trade with each other and how their products are produced. If, for example, state aid rules within the European Union on competition no longer apply in Britain because it is no longer in the European Union, there could be a very practical situation where North of the Border the British Government could grant aid a fish processing plant's extension and construction, but South of the Border we could not do it because we are not allowed to do so under state aid rules and competition law. All of a sudden there is an unbalanced trading relationship, and that creates unfairness. International experience shows that imbalance can be corrected through the application of levies or penalties, but that creates borders, barriers and checkpoints. It does not matter how cleverly that is done, whether by scanning systems, cameras and pre-registration, or if the checks are physically on the Border or in farmyards or offices. It is still border infrastructure and an impediment to trade and the free movement of goods, services, people and livestock, and all the other things that we on this island enjoy and have come to take for granted as part of a normalisation around a functioning and working peace process.
I hope that I am coming across as somebody who is serious about this issue and has thought through the consequences. To be fair to the British Government, it is really engaging and trying to understand the complexity of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in the context of Brexit. It was the British Government which put 141 examples of North-South co-operation on the table. In truth, there are many more examples. That is the start of the list. When one works through variants of the 141 examples, the more one looks at the detail, the more one realises that if there is regulatory divergence in the context of that co-operation today, the relationship potentially fundamentally changes. There will be need for a checking system or some form of process of verification of standards once the regulatory environment diverges in the two jurisdictions.
The way to deal with this, in simple terms, is to find a solution where Northern Ireland, or the United Kingdom as a whole, is part of the same customs union as the European Union through some new customs union partnership that could be designed. From a customs check point of view, that would solve our problem with the Border, but we would need to go beyond that because it still does not solve the regulatory issues in its entirety. It only solves the customs check issues. What we would really like to see is the UK remaining part of an extended and redesigned Single Market. That would deal with many of the trade issues not just North and South of the island of Ireland, but also east-west as well, which is a €65 billion trade relationship. Some 38,000 Irish companies trade directly with Britain virtually every week, which amounts to 200,000 jobs and 10% of our workforce. Anybody who thinks that we are not engaged seriously in these negotiations is incorrect. We are, given what is at stake here. However, in phase one we are focusing very much on Border issues and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in full.
It is not just about North-South co-operation. A scoping and mapping exercise is being carried out now which is focusing on citizens' rights in the context of the Good Friday Agreement. It should not be forgotten that people in Northern Ireland have an entitlement to be an Irish citizen, a British citizen or both. In the future, if they are Irish citizens, they will also have an automatic entitlement to be an EU citizen, and so a unique situation is created whereby people born outside the European Union will have a birthright to be an EU citizen by virtue of having been born in Northern Ireland and thus an automatic right to Irish citizenship by birth. How is that right implemented in full for EU citizens if one is living outside the EU with no access to a European court which will enforce those rights? EU citizens living South of the Border have those rights.
These are not easy things to deal with, and that is why we will take a firm, fair and stubborn approach. Ireland is one of the three big priorities for phase one of the negotiations, along with the financial settlement issues and the broader citizens' rights issues for EU and British citizens. There are three Irish issues at stake, including the common travel area, which we are making great progress on, the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which is proving very complex but which has a lot of good faith and effort from both sides, and the Border issues, which in our view we do not have sufficient progress on at the minute. We need more clarity and credibility around the answers that we need to have and the parameters by which we will work out how to maintain a largely invisible Border on the island of Ireland in the future, for all the reasons I outlined earlier. The British Government knows and understands that now. It has challenges politically in terms of responding to the issues that we are raising and sometimes there is a misunderstanding or perception, particularly in the UK, that the Irish Government is asking for something for the Republic of Ireland. This is something that we are seeking for the island of Ireland, for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, to try to maintain what many people, some of whom are in this room, have worked so hard to try to create over the past 20 or 30 years. These issues will require a lot of work in the next three weeks if we are going to be part of a decision, through the Taoiseach, to facilitate the opening of phase two of these negotiations, which is where we would all like to get to. We have to deal with those issues too, and the clock is ticking on the negotiating time. The future relationship issues are really important for Northern Ireland as well. I hope I am clear on that point.
In terms of-----