Political news

Micheál Martin says Northern Ireland should maintain 'unhindered access' to Customs Union and single market

Michéal Martin said Brexit remains a deep and urgent threat to Ireland. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he believes the UK's desire to have full access to EU markets while limiting regulatory compliance is "incompatible" with Brussels' core negotiating position.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, during a pre EU Council debate, Mr Martin said the Brexit negotiations should proceed on the basis of showing how Northern Ireland could maintain "unhindered access" to the Customs Union and single market.

"Otherwise we will remain fully hostage to the overall negotiations, the outcome of which is still deeply uncertain," he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be in Brussels today for a two day EU Council summit, where discussions will focus on the next phase of Brexit negotiations, migration, and closer economic and monetary union.

The summit will also discuss social, cultural and education issues, and security. It is expected that the meeting of EU leaders tomorrow will consider the future of the Economic and Monetary Union.

Speaking ahead of the meeting the Fianna Fáil leader told the Dáil that there were "major contradictions" in last Friday's EU-UK agreement.

"It would be an enormous error to believe that anything is settled," he said.

He said the British government had still not reconciled itself to the fact that ceasing to be a member of the EU "loses you many of the benefits of being a member".

"Brexit remains a deep and urgent threat to Ireland," he said.

"It remains a move by London away from the principle of rules-based international cooperation."

Mr Martin said last week's breakthrough deal meant the "worst-case scenarios appears a lot less likely".

However, he said what had been agreed was a "very broad" set of important principles which contained "clearly contradictory statements".

"The status of trade within Ireland and between these islands is very far from settled," he said.

He said the specific statement "entrenching the idea that Northern Ireland is no different from the rest of the UK" was unwelcome and a "reversal of over 40 years of policy and practice".

During a later Dáil debate on the north, Mr Martin said power-sharing must be restored to address "the overwhelming danger posed by Brexit".

He called on the Irish government to renew its commitment to the north and develop a response to Brexit which "prevents economic and social barriers being erected on this island".

He added: "Every person and every party of goodwill needs to acknowledge the crisis and act".

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams warned that last week's Brexit deal means people in the north will not have access the European Court of Justice after eight years.

Mr Adams complained that the Irish government had "signed up to an agreement which will strip Irish citizens living in the north of their EU rights".

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