Micheál Martin: 'New economic model needed for north and border counties'
THE north and the Republic's border counties should be designated a "special economic zone" to challenge poverty and help limit the damage of Brexit, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.
The Cork South Central TD warned that if the area is to break out of a cycle of low incomes and poverty it needs a new economic model.
Speaking at the British-Irish Association in Cambridge, Mr Martin said the north's "structural problems" must be addressed.
"I believe the answer is the creation of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Northern Ireland and at least the border counties in the South," he said.
"This can be done while fully respecting the constitutional rights protected in the Good Friday Agreement and incorporated into both UK and Irish law."
Mr Martin said an SEZ could be recognised by the EU as being distinct from the rest of the UK in terms of Single Market and Customs Union access.
He pointed out that the terms of the Good Friday Agreement set Northern Ireland in an EU context.
"It should not be hard to design a mechanism for certifying that Northern Ireland businesses conform with EU standards relevant to market access," he said.
"UK sovereignty would remain intact - in fact it is the UK government's official policy to support such zones in countries with structural development issues in defined regions."
Mr Martin also warned that the ongoing political deadlock at Stormont was causing "enormous concern".
"It is deepening political disengagement and leaving Northern Ireland voiceless during Brexit negotiations," he said.