Speaking whilst addressing the Institute of International & European Affairs in Dublin om Friday, President Healy said the nature of the border is very much dependent on trading between the UK and EU and says there won’t be certainty surrounding the issue until all trade aspects are sorted out.
He said, “The nature of the border we have with Northern Ireland will be dependent on the future trading relationship between the EU and the UK. We cannot have certainty as regards the nature of a future border without the trade aspects being resolved”.
The Chief Executive of the Ulster Farmers Union, Wesley Aston also addressed today’s conference, which marks the first anniversary of the UK vote to leave the EU.
Mr Healy said that all parties are in agreement over the wish to avoid such a hard border, though he says it is difficult to imagine a situation where there won’t be one.
He said, “All parties involved in the negotiations are clear that they wish to avoid a hard border. However, in a scenario where different customs and other regulatory regimes end up being applied to products entering Northern Ireland than those entering the Republic of Ireland, it is very difficult to envisage a scenario where there won’t be a hard border”.
The IFA President said, “The most straightforward solution to keeping the current border arrangements, and to minimise the disruption to trade, is for the UK to remain within the EU’s Customs Union. While the UK has reiterated its desire to leave, there is an intense negotiation process ahead. Ireland should place keeping the UK in the Customs Union, or reaching agreement on a trading arrangement that would have similar effect, as the top priority in the talks”.
Joe Healy said that while issues relating to the political circumstances in Northern Ireland are important, it is critical that trade issues are a top priority for the Irish Government.
Healy added that it is in fact Agri-food that is the most vulnerable sector to Brexit, and said the implications could prove devastating to the industry, “Our agri-food sector is the most exposed to Brexit. With over 40% of our exports going to the UK, the implications for the sector are devastating if we end up with punitive WTO tariffs being applied to our exports there.”
He concluded by calling for a close relationship between Ireland and the UK to be made a priority, “The closest possible trading relationship with the UK must be an absolute priority for Ireland in the Brexit negotiations”.