Barnier speech stokes fears over customs controls
Fears that some form of border controls will be introduced in the wake of Brexit have been heightened by EU negotiator Michel Barnier's speech to the Dáil.
While promising to keep Irish views to the forefront during the Brexit talks, Mr Barnier said: "We have a duty to speak the truth."
"The UK's departure from the EU will have consequences. Customs controls are part of EU border management. They protect the single market. They protect our food safety and our standards," the Frenchman told a joint sitting of the Dáil and Seanad.
The comments led to calls for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to seek further clarity on what measure the EU is considering in relation to the Border. However, Government sources pointed to other passages of Mr Barnier's speech in which he said: "European integration helped to remove borders that once existed on maps and in minds. Brexit changes the external borders of the EU. I will work with you to avoid a hard Border."
Mr Barnier said the EU "will be here for" Ireland throughout the negotiations and all member states recognise our "unique position".
"Today, in front of these two houses, I want to reassure the Irish people - in this negotiation Ireland's interest will be the Union's interest," he said.
During his contribution, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin spoke out against what he called the "ugly and negative" referendum held last year.
"There was no strategy for implementing Brexit, there was just a strategy for winning the vote through a combination of bluster and aggression.
"It was not a positive assertion of sovereignty; it was the culmination of 30 years of an increasingly corrosive scapegoating of Europe and immigrants for the home-grown divisions in British society," he said.
Mr Martin said "false prophets" promised an economic bonanza that won't be delivered.
"We have no nostalgia for a lost empire and no wish to assert superiority over others," he added.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Border had to remain open because the implications of customs posts "are enormous".
Mr Barnier was visibly engaged with People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett's contribution as he asked whether Ireland could trust his word.
"Can we trust Mr Barnier with international solidarity when Jean-Claude Trichet threatened to let off, I quote, 'a financial bomb' in Dublin if our Government even suggested burning the gambling bondholders who crippled our economy and whose activities inflicted cruel and vicious austerity on hundreds of thousands of our citizens?" he asked.