Monday 21 May 2018

Brexit forum must be in place by autumn - Martin

FF leader’s call heaps pressure on Kenny as UK decision bites

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said any new body could be set up without the support of the DUP. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said any new body could be set up without the support of the DUP. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said his party will look for the establishment of a north-south 'national dialogue' in the autumn as the economic fallout from 'Brexit' begins to take shape.

The leader of the Opposition has called for the speedy establishment of such a forum, which he says should include stakeholders such as farmers, business organisations and civil society groups.

Mr Martin said the new body, which would be all-island in nature, was essential for containing the aftershocks of Britain's decision to exit the EU.

Experts say the decision is now beginning to have a negative impact on many sectors across both Britain and Ireland.Opting to use the terms 'civil dialogue' or 'national dialogue', Mr Martin said he saw no reason why the body should not be up and running in the autumn.

"This is about reaching out and establishing how Brexit is affecting people and businesses. It should be up and running in the autumn, absolutely," Mr Martin told the Irish Independent.

But his call for an almost immediate establishment of such a body will heap pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to act.

Read more: Guess what? It's a month after the UK's EU referendum and the sky hasn't fallen in

Mr Kenny has been less vocal about the issue since the Government's original proposal for an all-island forum was shot down by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster.

It later emerged that Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan had not been consulted about the move.

Tensions between Dublin and Belfast were stoked further after Mr Kenny placed the issue of a border poll firmly on the political agenda.

But Mr Martin has said any new body could be set up without the support of the DUP.

Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil leader has responded to the suggestion that the border between the North and South could be a virtual one.

Mr Martin said clarity was urgently required in relation to the proposal, which was floated by Mr Kenny following his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Downing Street last week.


Mr Kenny said there would be no return to a 'hard border' and that the use of technology could be the solution to maintaining an open flow of people between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Fine Gael leader said that he was open to exploring models, such as the screening of vehicle registration plates, which are in place in places like Canada.

"I would not agree to a hard border with a whole range of customs posts and neither does the prime minister," Mr Kenny said.

"There are other ways of dealing with modern technology in terms of checking trade."

But Mr Martin said such a border run by technology could prove "equally as problematic" and that the issue "needs to be teased out".

Read more: There is absolutely 'no upside to Brexit' for Ireland, warns agriculture minister

"The most important point, and it depends ultimately on the deal negotiated between the EU and Britain, is that Britain still has access to a single market along the lines of the deal extended to Norway," the Cork South Central TD said.

"A borderless island of Ireland depends on that first and foremost. If you don't have a single market, well then you have serious problems.

"And Fianna Fáil does welcome the soundings that suggest people are doing a bit more preparatory work on both sides."

Irish Independent

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