Northern Ireland Protocol: Danger Ireland could become ‘semi-detached from EU single market’


There is a real danger that Ireland will break away from the EU single market if the UK protocol bill becomes law, a former taoiseach has said.

Ahern said that while it would be the last resort, the scenario is a “step or two closer” after the legislation is released.

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The government last week tabled a bill in Westminster that would allow ministers to override much of the controversial post-Brexit trade regime it had agreed with the EU during withdrawal talks.

When asked if there was a risk that Ireland would break away from the single market, Ahern replied: “Yes”.

Speaking to the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Ahern said: “If this continues down the slippery slope and legislation is passed, the EU will say it needs to see the single market implemented. work and if there is no land border, it has to be in the ports.

“I shudder to think – and we saw what the delays were at ports and other ports two years ago when checks were limited.

“You can imagine the difficulty this would create for Irish traders.

Ahern with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair

“If this were to continue and this bill were to pass, if the EU said ‘we can’t go anywhere here, and there have to be checks’, which they will, they will eventually because that they must protect the integrity of the single market.

“They have to continue with the line that there is a dyke around the single market, so there is a real difficulty because if we want to stay in the single market then we have to go with checks.

“I think it’s the last resort and it’s something we don’t want to see, but I’m afraid after last week’s position it’s a step or two closer.”

Ahern also said unilateral action is “deeply unnecessary” in building relationships and trust between the UK and the EU.

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“A partnership which is at the heart of the implementation of the protocol, and not only inside this country but with the European Union, which was foreseen in the agreement”, he added.

“The UK’s international reputation as a trusted partner is also an issue.

“In Northern Ireland, Brexit continues to heighten political tensions within the executive and last September North-South cooperation ceased, which in effect means there has been no cooperation on the Good Friday Agreement since last summer.”

He told the IIEA that it is clear that many in Northern Ireland, particularly in the business world, want the protocol to work well and see the benefits.

But the DUP blocked the establishment of a new ministerial executive following last month’s Assembly elections in protest at the protocol, which has created economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the Kingdom. -United.

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The party has made it clear that tabling the legislation is not enough to convince it to return to the executive, saying it needs to see tangible results on removing the so-called Irish Sea border .

But Ahern said businesses in Northern Ireland see the protocol as helping them.

“The protocol presents real opportunities for Northern Ireland because of access to the single market,” he added.

He also criticized the relationship between officials of the Republic and Great Britain.

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“Everything was extraordinarily negative. My understanding is that at the official level, at the parliamentary level, at the ministerial level and at the level of heads of state, relations are bad, and that is very disappointing,” Ahern added.

“I think we are now in a position where the atmosphere is toxic.

“I think in all negotiations it is possible to find solutions, I never believe that things are impossible. But it takes two parties to negotiate.

He described Boris Johnson as an “intelligent man”, but claimed the Prime Minister had “no great interest” in negotiating with the EU.

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