Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú, recently appointed to the Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs, said today’s Financial Times report, which suggests the British government will this week introduce legislation to ‘circumvent’ part of the protocol, is ‘worrying in the extreme, particularly for border communities’.
The prospect of a hard border near Dundalk was raised again at the weekend, as a consequence of a reported British government strategy that could override elements of the Irish Protocol.
Dundalk TD Ó Murchú said it was difficult to overstate the damage that could be done to the future of the all-island economy and society.
Speaking today, Teachta Ó Murchú said: “The Irish Protocol has been painstakingly negotiated and agreed over many months. Now, in what is either a show of bravado at least or an utter betrayal of a signed agreement, the British government is staring at the EU and daring us to blink.
“This week sees the start of the eighth round of negotiations between the EU and the British government. Whether it’s a negotiating strategy or a serious proposal, it shows extremely bad faith on the part of the British that they are prepared to change some of the protocol in order to suit themselves.
“Whether it’s Boris Johnson’s deadline of October 15 or the EU’s deadline of October 31, businesses and communities along the border know that they could be dealing, by the end of next month, with the prospect of a hard border happening in January 2021.
“The British have categorically ruled out an extension to negotiations and if we are not in a position to reach an agreement in October, then the worst nightmares of border communities could come true.
“The Sinn Féin representative said it was ‘well past time’ for the Irish government to ‘start a real and serious conversation about the constitutional future of the island’ when it was ‘beyond clear that the British government have no regard for Ireland, North or South’.
“The North is nothing but a pawn in the British negotiating game. Since the Brexit vote in 2016, we have been calling for the Irish government to start planning for unity – what it would look like, how it could be achieved.
“Now, more than ever, that big conversation needs to take place, as having a united Ireland within the EU means that the worse excesses of Brexit can be somewhat mitigated.”