Seanad report calls for new post-Brexit ‘open skies’ deal

Neale Richmond-led team urges all-island trade model like Germany’s pre-1990 accord

Senator Neale Richmond: his  committee’s report recommends new “open skies” agreements with the UK and an energy interconnector between Ireland and France. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Senator Neale Richmond: his committee’s report recommends new “open skies” agreements with the UK and an energy interconnector between Ireland and France. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A special Seanad report on Brexit to be published today has recommended new “open skies” agreements with the UK and the completion of an energy interconnector between Ireland and France.

It also proposes a model for all-island trade based on the pre-1990 agreement between East and West Germany.

The 10-member committee, chaired by Neale Richmond of Fine Gael, met over nine day-long sessions to hear evidence from interested parties, as well as meeting six times in private to consider other written submissions on the impact Brexit will have for the State and for Northern Ireland. .

A major recommendation of the report is for a new EU-UK-US open skies agreement.

Post-Brexit, the UK will need to draft separate agreements with the US and also with the EU. The new arrangements will need to be in place before spring 2018. The committee suggests that two separate agreements will be necessary, between the EU and the UK, and between the US and the UK. It said this should be a priority as the current agreement will expire within 12 months.

Turning to energy, the report raises concerns about the impact for security of supply in the event of a hard Brexit. It says the most obvious solution is the completion of the Celtic Interconnector between Ireland and France, which would reduce Ireland’s reliance on the UK it concludes.

Border issue

The report looks at several alternative suggestions as to how to deal with the Border issue and all-island trade in the event of Brexit.

The Senators decided to follow what is described as the German model. This was the arrangement in place between East and West Germany before reunification in 1990.

Under this model, trade on the island of Ireland would be considered as all-island trade and within the one economy, the Senators argue.

Speaking ahead of the publication, Senator Richmond said: “It is generally accepted that the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to the impact of Brexit on Ireland. Our report reflects this and is based on the overwhelming evidence offered by our witnesses.

“We are recommending separate EU-UK and US-UK Open Skies agreements before spring 2018, so air routes for 2018 and 2019 are not adversely impacted. As an island nation with an air bridge to the UK, we are extremely exposed to any disruption to flight connectivity, so it is vital that an agreement is reached.

“In terms of transport, we heard that bus services crossing the Border are likely to face significant challenges as a result of the UK exit from the European Union, as are trains and taxis.”

It is important that any post-Brexit regulation will allow for regular cross-Border passenger services conducive to an all-island economy, said Senator Richmond.