Eastwood: Cast iron commitment to no hardening of the border vital
The SDLP Leader said:
“The desperate and last minute attempts by the British Government to move on to Phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations without providing any clarity on the Irish border issue must be rejected in the strongest possible terms.
“This week it was telling that this chaotic British Government focussed more on the exact time and date of their departure from the EU instead of dealing with the substance and detail of the actual Brexit negotiation. The dysfunction at the heart of Theresa May’s government cannot be a reason to weaken the Irish or the EU’s negotiating position in the crucial weeks ahead.
“The SDLP is clear that sufficient progress will not have been achieved unless the Irish Government, the British Government and the European Union are all locked into the commitment that there will be no hardening of the border in Ireland – no matter the outcome of the second phase of negotiations.
“The Irish Government must now hold strong to the position that sufficient progress will not have been made in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations unless and until there is sufficient clarity that there can be no hardening of the Irish border. In terms of practical economic regulation, that can only mean that the North remains as part of the single market and the customs union.
“The further this Brexit negotiation goes on, the greater the clarity of that solution becomes. It is a solution which can be protected and enhanced by the Good Friday Agreement.
“As the first phase of these negotiations come to a head, it would be the height of madness to get sucked into the belief that because of the temporary parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster, the DUP somehow hold a veto on the future of the border on this island. They do not, cannot and must not.
“There is a broad consensus among people and parties across this island that any new economic border would prove disastrous for businesses and communities across Ireland. That’s why the North voted to remain and why this island is still committed to the benefits of the European Union.”