After Brexit; trade, politics and moving forwards


‘People are scared of Brexit. Genuine concerns
about the implications. And it’s not just the business community. There are 35,000 people
cross the border every day to work or to study. We have an All-Ireland electricity market. There are people who have holiday homes on one side of the border or another. People
who just freely couldn’t tell you where the border is. The EU support that we get. The regulatory
convergence across Ireland. All that we have by way of protection of our rights: the European
Court of Justice, the Charter of Fundamental Rights so that we can build upon that in the
much needed Bill of Rights here for the north that was agreed in the Good Friday Agreement.
All of those things are tied in with a relationship with the EU. All of that cannot be damaged
because of the people of England, mainly, the people who voted for Brexit. People have
talked about this as being, I mean the conversation and the debates that were happening here was
all about England. It was about the views and opinions of the English people, and they’re
entitled to it. And they voted to leave, and that should be respected. And I will be the first to stand over that. That should be respected. But so should the voice and the vote and the democratic outcome
of the people here of the north in the context of the Good Friday Agreement. That is why
the north is a special place’. ‘I think it does in many it accelerates
the conversation on Irish unity because if you can put it like this, you know, I as a
kind of practising politician when I go in to work on a Monday morning, you know, uniting
Ireland it’s fair to say and it wasn’t at the very top of my agenda, but you have
to look at it in a much more evolutionary way. And a lot of the north/south institutions
that had been allowed to weather over the last ten years I think they hadn’t really
been used properly by the Assembly are going to become very important. And I see the Good
Friday Agreement not just as something that we have to protect in Brexit but actually
it has a lot of institutions that could be really, really useful. It has provisions for a border bank. It has
sort of east/west relationships, a kind of a parliamentary assembly that could, you know,
discuss the issues pertaining to the two Irelands. And, you know, it has structures that could
be very, very useful in Brexit. So we should use it as a toolkit and not just, you know,
a kind of an ornament on the mantelpiece. So, in the one hand, it puts lots of challenges
in but the fact is all of the challenges to Irish unity in terms of in peoples’ hearts
and minds that existed on 22nd June last year still exist. And a lot of people, the conversation
about Irish unity for many people will … Pragmatic people will say people who would be unionists
but voted Remain. I’m not saying that they’re suddenly united Irelanders but they are people
who are up for a pragmatic argument. And I think the more that it becomes about
the practicalities of living and the less about kind of chest thumping identity that
can be a positive thing for the debate on Irish unity.’ I mean, first of all, I’d say to a young
Nationalist – there’ll be absolutely no difference. You will still have all of the
rights that you have at present. If you want to have an Irish passport you can have it.
If you want to travel freely across a border you can do it. If you want to have … Ways
of expressing your Irish identity – you can be able to do that. Leaving the EU is going
to make absolutely no difference to all of those things which are important to you. They’re
not important to me as a Unionist, but they’re important to people as Nationalists. I understand
that. And one of the reasons why we have argued
that the border should be as frictionless as possible is to ensure that that balance
is not upset. And I believe it is possible to do that. And already we have had commitments
from the British government and the Irish government that the Common Travel Area, the
ability for people to be able to travel freely across the border. Their ability to have Irish
passports, travel on Irish passports and have all the rights as Irish citizens if they wish
to have those they have them. So, I think that’s the first thing I would say. And the second thing is that as far as the
border issue is concerned; no one has said they want to put a border between Northern
Ireland and the Irish Republic. No one has even shown why there is any necessity to put
a border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The EU have said they don’t
want it. The Irish government have said they don’t want it. The British government have
said they don’t want it. Unionists have said they don’t want it. And, you know,
all of this has been stirred up by people who, well, first of all, they were hoping
to get some political gain at previous elections over it and stir up Nationalist fears. And
secondly, they are trying to desperately find some argument to keep Britain in the single
market and the Customs Union. ‘..Twenty years on from the Good Friday
Agreement we were beginning to learn how to be Northern Irish. You could be Irish, you
could be British, or you could be both, or you could be all three of them if you wanted
to be. The problem with Brexit is that’s now raised that concern very clearly’. Get more from the Open University Check out the links on screen now

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