8 Jun 2018, 14.29

New British plans to observe a Brexit “backstop” that would avoid any hard border controls until 2021 do not address the fundamental uncertainties being created for all-Ireland businesses and cross-border commuters, the Joint Committee on European Union Affairs says.

Chairman Michael Healy-Rae TD, speaking on behalf of the 11-member Committee, says the UK move announced this week offers some hope that households and companies dependent on a free-flowing border will not experience immediate obstacles in 2019 if the UK officially exits the EU as pledged.

“Our Committee is of the firm and unanimous view that promises of a British 'backstop' represent only a potential postponement of economic and social hardship for tens of thousands of Irish citizens who cross the border daily,” Deputy Healy-Rae said. “It represents no solution to any problem, merely a failure to reach a coherent decision at all.”

“We must view this proposal as a matter of temporary relief, but only that,” he said. “This time-limited ‘backstop’ means we still face the risk of a reversal of fortunes for an all-Ireland economy that has been growing with great promise since the 1993 abolition of border controls. Uncertainty is the enemy of economic growth. The promised ‘backstop’ extends this period of uncertainty.”

The EU Affairs Committee will meet in the coming week with European Commission officials and the government’s minister of European affairs, Helen McEntee TD, to discuss evolving Brexit scenarios, post-Brexit EU budget proposals and a range of other EU-related issues.

The UK government on Thursday proposed that, in event of no agreement on new trade arrangements by 2019, it would seek to continue observing current Customs Union rules with the EU for an additional two years and create more space for negotiations on the matter.

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