Finance Minister Michael Noonan says a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland is “not a runner” in the wake of Brexit.
Speaking at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, yesterday morning, Mr Noonan said such a border is not feasible.
“I just don’t think it’s a runner,” he said, suggesting that EU/UK border checks might be more likely at points such as Larne and Belfast Airport.
“I can’t see why an arrangement can’t be made, so the control points are at Larne and at Belfast Airport, and at Liverpool and Southampton — you know, where the access points are. Rather than having some cut across our island,” he said.
“I just think that is an impossible proposition. I just don’t think it’s a runner,” he told committee members.
This stand echoes comments from outgoing British prime minister, David Cameron, who said border checks are more feasible between the islands of Britain and Ireland, rather than along the border of the Republic.
At the committee, Mr Noonan restated his view that the decision of the British people to leave the European Union would not affect his Budget 2017 plans, but that later budgets could be impacted. Mr Noonan said the longer-term Brexit effects on Ireland would also depend on any deal Britain agreed with the EU.
Regarding October’s budget, Mr Noonan told committee members that tax revenue projections for 2017 were relatively fixed and contingencies for Brexit’s initial impact had already been worked out.
“The next step is all of these figures are revisited before the budget. And, in the budget, a new set of figures will be published, using the most recent data in September. We will not be in a position to do anything before then. Obviously, the people involved in forecasting are watching all the movements,” Mr Noonan said.
If Britain remains in the single market, “then the impact will be quite low,” he said, warning there would be a bigger impact if the new relationship involved tariffs and border posts.
Striking a positive note, Mr Noonan said Brexit also presented potential economic and foreign-direct investment (FDI) advantages for Ireland.
He said post-Brexit market movement had been adverse to Britain, in terms of exchange rates and stock exchange values, with the international expectation that Britain would become a weaker economy.
Mr Noonan said Britain could become less attractive for foreign-direct investment, to the benefit of Ireland. But he added that attracting FDI was a “competitive business” and if the British government feels it is losing out, “they’ll probably adjust policy to forestall that”.
Sinn Féin finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, said the only sure way to have no hard border was to have no border at all.
He was speaking after exchanges with Mr Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Mr Doherty said Mr Kenny failed to present any plan as to how to ensure that a hard border would not be reintroduced.
Mr Doherty accused Fine Gael of being “at sea” and of sending contradictory messages about Ireland’s position in the EU.
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