Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Questions (143)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

143. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the way in which the EU policy coherence unit aims to protect the Single Market in the event of a hard Brexit. [16359/19]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

We promote and protect Ireland’s interests in the EU through the work of the EU Division of my Department, our Embassies in Europe and the Permanent Mission to the EU in Brussels, in cooperation with the Department of the Taoiseach, and other Government Departments.

Ireland is strongly committed to the Single Market and continues to advocate that a properly functioning Single Market, in all areas of trading, is essential for Europe’s competitiveness on the global stage, and to facilitate Europe performing optimally at the highest point of global value chains.  Ease of access to cross-border trading opportunities within the EU is especially valuable to Irish and European SMEs.

There is ongoing and regular contact between the Government and the European Commission, at all levels, in relation to our preparedness and contingency measures for Brexit, including a no-deal scenario. We are working closely with the Commission on how to mitigate the negative impact on our trade and economy, and to ensure connectivity with the rest of the EU's Single Market, including via the landbridge.

In recent weeks, discussions have had an additional focus on how to protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border in the case of no deal, while also protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Customs Union and Ireland’s place in them.  Ireland and the EU are at one in our determination to do all we can, deal or no deal, to avoid a hard border and to protect the peace process.

If the UK decides to leave without the Withdrawal Agreement, initial, temporary arrangements will be required. Such arrangements will be suboptimal compared to the backstop, and, while we are absolutely determined to avoid physical infrastructure at the border, it would be difficult to avoid serious disruption to the functioning of the all-island economy. There are no easy answers. The seamless trade we enjoy today would not be possible, and the benefits of the backstop for businesses in Northern Ireland will be lost, at least in the short term.

For any sustainable long-term solution, discussions between the EU, Ireland and the UK will be required, not least given the UK's obligations under the Good Friday Agreement as a co-guarantor of that agreement. For such a solution, it would be impossible to escape the need for close alignment with the Single Market and Customs Union, and the backstop would be the starting point for these discussions.

This is also why the Withdrawal Agreement is of such importance. It represents the only way to ensure an orderly UK withdrawal, and we continue to work as a priority to support its ratification.