Martin tells DUP leader Irish unity aspiration 'not a threat'
DUP leader Arlene Foster yesterday called for a "sensible Brexit" and set out why she had objected to the original proposals negotiated between the EU and UK.
She welcomed the final text which, she said, meant that in the event of no agreement Northern Ireland business would retain "unfettered access" to the whole of the UK and, if required, any regulatory alignment on issues of North/South co-operation would be for the entirety of the UK.
Also at the Killarney Economic Conference in Co Kerry yesterday, Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin said politicians in the Republic had a right to express "aspiration for a single State for all on this island without this being presented as a threat to anyone".
In a well-received speech in Killarney, Ms Foster said the DUP "absolutely don't want to see the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland".
She added: "We value the trade that has developed at pace between Northern Ireland - and the entire UK - and the Republic in recent years.
"The UK market is critical to many Irish sectors and especially agri-foods with 40pc of Irish food and drink going to the UK.
"The Irish market accounts for just over 30pc of all of Northern Ireland's exports, and trade from Northern Ireland to the Republic rose by more than 16pc in the last year. It is, in short, an incredibly valuable market for Northern Ireland businesses.
"But so too is Great Britain. More so, in fact. Of the £26bn worth of sales by Northern Ireland firms that are outside of the region, 56pc go to Great Britain. Northern Ireland trade with Great Britain is worth 3.7 times more than Northern Ireland exports to the Republic. It is, by far, our biggest external market.
"It was for that reason that my party objected to the originally proposed text of the Joint Report on progress during phase one of the Brexit negotiations. We could not countenance anything which created a border down the Irish Sea and potentially cut Northern Ireland businesses off from their biggest market."
Meanwhile, Mr Martin said: "I think it's important that we put to rest the idea that politicians in the Republic advocating a deal which respects the rights and opinions of Northern Ireland is a constitutional threat. It's actually the exact opposite.
"It is a vindication of long-established policy which underpins the core concept that the people of Northern Ireland alone will decide on its constitutional status.
"Equally, we have a right to express our aspiration for a single State for all on this island without this being presented as a threat to anyone.
"And I think through my words and actions I have more than earned the right to speak on this topic without being accused of following the agenda of Sinn Fein - which is in fact this island's most entrenched anti-EU party."
He believed that the only credible means of addressing the economic needs of Northern Ireland is for it to become a special economic zone.
"This would threaten no one's sovereignty but it would enable a means of allowing free flow of trade both North/South and East/West.
"It would not in any way undermine the internal market of the UK as it is a model used throughout the world by states seeking ways of developing regions," he said.