Howlin remarks at Barnier meeting in Dundalk

Issued 30 April 2018

Speaking at the all-island civic dialogue meeting with Michel Barnier in Dundalk today, Monday 30th April, Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin TD outlined the need for absolute clarity by the June meeting of the EU Council on arrangements for the Irish border.

Deputy Howlin said:

"I’ve always been a political optimist.

"So in December I accepted that the obvious contradiction between seamless alignment between North and South – maintenance of the NI/UK customs union – and the UK leaving the EU customs union fell into the historical negotiating position of ‘constructive ambiguity’.

"Such that all the parties would know where this would land but needed words to keep everybody on board.

"That clearly now has proven not to be the case. A civil war has erupted in the UK Tory Party as Prime Minister May continues to insist on all the UK exiting the EU Customs Union and single market, again emphasised after former Home Secretary Rudd’s utterances.

"The UK’s plans such as they are to operationalise the December agreement, are patently unworkable and the EU have said as much. In essence, a customs partnership (of UK design) and Maximum Facilitation or Max Fax (even the phrase sounds cosmetic!).

"In short we are nowhere near a satisfactory solution to the border issue. And there are no ideas on the table that square that original December contradiction.

"The British fall back seems to be to fudge again in June and October and roll the issue into the implementation/transition period negotiations. Then they will get their ‘keep our cake and eat it solution’ – free trade with the EU and freedom to do external deals with other countries.

"Colleagues it is time now to end the pretence and have absolute clarity by the June Council.

"The opportunity for a more realistic approach from the UK may arise in the upcoming Commons votes especially if the Conservatives do badly in Thursday’s local elections.

"Irelands interest lies in bringing about that change and we should say so."