Post-Brexit border rules key ahead of all-island meeting
Any post-Brexit border controls should be in Britain, not on the island of Ireland, the leader of the SDLP has said.
Colum Eastwood was speaking ahead of his participation in Taoiseach Enda Kenny's all-island civic dialogue on the UK's vote to leave the EU.
The North's First Minister Arlene Foster has snubbed the event in Dublin which will be attended by politicians, business groups, unions, and others.
Mr Eastwood MLA said his priority is that the North remain in the single market.
"The freedom of movement of goods and services across this island must be protected and any new border controls must be at Stanstead, Liverpool or Stranraer, not in Ireland," he said.
Mr Eastwood said an "Irish solution to a European problem" is needed and urged the Irish Government to "defend the interests of all the people of Ireland".
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald will be attending along with Gerry Adams, and the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
She appealed to Ms Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, to engage with the forum in future.
"Maybe the DUP will reconsider and will participate in this. They have a duty to do so," she said. Ms McDonald said the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and pointed out that the DUP campaigned for a 'Leave' vote.
"We profoundly disagree with that - but if they have a point of view, which they clearly do, they should be in Dublin articulating it," she said.
Employers' group IBEC said its key issues are the preservation of the common labour market and the need for a shared ambition for infrastructure on an all-island basis.
It also wants a targeted strategy to react to the difficulties for business in the border areas.
Chief executive Danny McCoy said the political settlement in the North "needs to be afforded a special status, along with a continued commitment to the development of the all-island economy".
A spokesman for the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, Paddy Malone, who is also attending, said his organisation is "worried about a hard border". He said this would create difficulties for 3,000 people who commute between the town and Newry in the North as well as increase transport costs for businesses.
He also said he will be raising concern about the effect that the fall in sterling has had on retailers and the potential damage to tourism. "We're trying to sell Carlingford Lough as a single destination. That's going to be practically impossible if it's split right down the middle with a border," he said.
Tourism Ireland boss Niall Gibbons, who represents the industry both north and south, agreed that "no one wants a hard border". He said the majority of American and European visitors to the North travel there from the Republic.
"The interdependencies here are really significant," he said.
Separately, jobs minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor will visit London today to meet with ministers, including Liam Fox, who will have responsibility for negotiating UK trade deals.
Ms Mitchell O'Connor said she will raise "the importance of the Brexit negotiations taking full account of the impact on Ireland".