‘Hostility’ between Irish, UK governments must be addressed, Dáil hears

‘We have to look at bigger picture, time beyond Brexit,’ FF’s Lisa Chambers says

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers.  Photograph: Fran Veale

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers. Photograph: Fran Veale


Ireland’s deteriorating relationship with the UK over Brexit and the “hostility” between the two sides, has caused damage and must be addressed urgently, the Dáil has been warned.

Fianna Fáil Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers said many decades had been spent building a strong relationship between the two islands and Brexit had put considerable strain on that.

“There even appears to be a degree of hostility at times between both Governments and this is not good,” she said.

Ms Chambers said the Government had done a lot of work interacting with EU leaders but “arguably has failed to put the same effort into the very important relationship we have with the UK government which ultimately has caused damage and is something that must be addressed urgently.

“We must look at the bigger picture and a time beyond Brexit when we want to continue to have strong relationships with our closes neighbour, not only because they are our biggest market but because we have long historic and strong cultural links that are very important to our own people.”

Speaking during a debate on the Government’s Brexit contingency action plan, Ms Chambers was critical of the measures proposed. “We still don’t know what type of support package will be in place for farmers and businesses in the event of no deal,” she said. “We still don’t know what happens to the Border when we have to protect the integrity of the single market.”


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Security concerns

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who opened the debate, said the risks of a no-deal Brexit are most acute regarding its possible impact on Northern Ireland, north-south relations and on the Belfast Agreement.

He warned that a no deal scenario “risks significantly undermining wider community relations and political stability in Ireland with potential related security concerns”.

And he stressed the importance of the backstop, an insurance policy to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland.

“It’s very important that we in Ireland remain clear and consistent on the need for the backstop which has come under sustained attack during the course of the Conservative Party leadership contest,” he said.

Earlier this week at a private meeting, Mr Coveney accused Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt of having an “utterly disingenuous debate” on Brexit in their contest to become British prime minister.

Mr Coveney described the contenders as “people who should know better”.

On Thursday, he told the Dáil that “the commitment of the Government throughout the Brexit process to prevent a hard border remains the highest priority”.

Mr Coveney said this summer, commentary would be dominated by Brexit and the build up to September and October and the challenges of dealing with a potential no-deal scenario.

He said he would be available through the Dáil recess to brief opposition TDs or address any queries they might have to “ensure that unity of purpose created in this House around Brexit can be sustained and strengthened” in the difficult time ahead.

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams expressed concern that the Government’s action plan highlighted a risk the UK government might initiate a move to direct rule in Northern Ireland. He called for confirmation that the Government was “implacably opposed” to such a move and would use all international forums if the British attempted this.

In replay, Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee said that “we have always said - the Tánaiste, Taoiseach and myself as Minister - that that would not be something we would ever accept”.