Friday 21 October 2016

Border arrangement post-Brexit can be close to what we currently have - senior civil servant

Published 05/10/2016 | 15:33

John Callinan
John Callinan

It is possible to achieve a border arrangement post-Brexit that will be close to what we currently have, a senior civil servant in the Department of the Taoiseach has said.

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John Callinan, the Department's second secretary general assigned to deal with the challenges posed by the Brexit vote, said it won’t be easy, and the negotiations will be difficult. But he said it is possible.

“The goal is to have something as close to what we have at the moment as possible,” Mr Callinan told a breakfast briefing on the first day of Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week.

“There is, right across the EU, and particularly between Dublin, London and Belfast, recognition that there are very specific circumstances in relation to the north. I think there’s a commitment there to find a way to make this work, that looks, feels and is as close to what we have at the moment as possible.

“It won’t be easy. I think it will be a difficult negotiation but I think it’s possible.”

Mr Callinan was appointed over the summer to lead a new integrated division within the Department with responsibility for supporting the Taoiseach in his work on EU, Northern Ireland, British-Irish and International affairs. The appointment was part of a series of actions announced by the Taoiseach following the referendum.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the same event this morning that the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will be in Dublin next week.

Mr Kenny also reiterated that the Budget will have a national economic response to Brexit.

“In the short term, the Budget takes place next week, there will be a range of measures to ensure there’s a national economic response to Brexit in so far as we can deal with that at this point,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr Kenny said the Government is aware of the need to adapt existing schemes, and introduce new schemes for Irish businesses.

"On foot of legislation that was passed earlier this year, I expect the Government will shortly be in a position to roll out a number of new initial products that will improve the attractiveness of existing offerings related to risk sharing,” the Taoiseach said.

“The Minister for Jobs, Minister for Finance and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland are working to deliver on these schemes in the coming weeks."

Referring to the planned all-island civic dialogue on Brexit due to be held next month, Mr Kenny said invitations will be sent to a broad spectrum of civic society groups.

The two main unionist parties in the north will not be taking part in the forum.

“So while we have the political fora, the North South Ministerial Council, the British Irish Parliamentary Association and so on, it is very important that we hear the voices of commerce, the voices of business,” Mr Kenny added.

Earlier, Mr Callinan said Ms May had signalled in her speech at the Conservative Party conference a harder exit than some might have suggested.

But he added: “There’s still a long way to run. There’s still a lot of hedging of bets from the British system. But it’s clear that they’re trying to seize the initiative a little bit, they don’t want to go into this negotiation on the back foot.”

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