Monday 18 December 2017

We should negotiate directly with UK: Ahern

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern arrives to give evidence to the Seanad Select Brexit Committee at Leinster House in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern arrives to give evidence to the Seanad Select Brexit Committee at Leinster House in Dublin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Ireland has every right to conduct bilateral talks with the UK on non-trade issues during the Brexit negotiations, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

Mr Ahern claimed key EU officials such as Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier agree, and that the Good Friday Agreement allowed for it.

"The reality is it's an international agreement and we have every right, every right, to bilaterally negotiate, not the trade issues, but on the other issues to be able to negotiate with the British. I don't accept the argument that we're precluded on those issues," Mr Ahern told the Seanad Brexit committee.

"I know [European Parliament Brexit lead] Guy Verhofstadt, I know Michel Barnier, I know Jean Claude Juncker, I've dealt with these guys for 20 years, they don't have a different view. The strength of our argument on the non-trade issues is that the Good Friday Agreement allows it."

Mr Ahern also said the last thing he wanted out of Brexit was a Border poll at this stage, adding it should be only on the basis of consent. He said he believed the customs Border post-Brexit should be in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain, not between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Meanwhile, a Freedom of Information request on plans for customs posts along the Border, submitted by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty has been returned refused.

However, the reply cited around 30 documents in which the issue was noted.

The documents included reference to emails with the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Transport as well as briefing notes and technical presentations. Mr Doherty has previously raised the issue of Government plans for customs posts with the Finance Minister, with the Sinn Féin TD saying the plans were worrying.

Irish Independent

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