On Monday night in the House of Lords the government made an important announcement.
Contrary to the campaign by the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Fianna Fáil in the South that, for the European Union, the border should be around the island of Ireland rather than across it, the minister confirmed that there would be no agreement in the Brexit negotiations to treat any part of the UK differently ie there would definitely be no border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
In the debate I rejected the call by the Dublin government that Northern Ireland should be given special status within the EU.
I stated that the southern prime minister, Mr Kenny, had pointed out that the Republic of Ireland would suffer more than any other EU nation from Brexit and that it was the Republic that needed special status.
I mentioned that already two years before Brexit the Republic was suffering – thousands were travelling every day to Northern Ireland for their daily shopping; border towns in the South were in decline; beef farmers in South were demonstrating because beef exports to the UK had already fallen; mushroom plants had closed because mushrooms could no longer be sold in UK due to depreciation of sterling (hundreds of mushroom workers had already lost their jobs); and the tourist industry in the South was likely to have a bad year as more tourists come from the UK than any other country and the depreciation of sterling meant that holidays in the Republic were now 15% dearer.
I said of this is the position today, what will it be like in two years time when Brexit is a reality?
The two alternatives are for the Republic to get special status within the EU or for the Republic to exit the EU the same day as the UK – that would mean there would be no problems at the border and would eliminate the damage now being caused to the Southern Irish economy.
Lord Kilclooney, Armagh