"Last night, we learned of the proposals contained in the so-called non-papers, or, as I would describe them, "non-sense" papers. Unfortunately, Brexit has now descended into spin, rhetoric and sound bites. One would need a PhD to decipher the narrative, understand the hidden agenda and subplot, and recognise the diversion tactics, such as the "dead cat strategy", that are being deployed. Rather than address the issues in question, political leaders reference something completely obscure and unconnected to the topic of conversation to divert attention. Again and again, this dead-catting is deployed to avoid addressing the concerns that are raised.
Yesterday's leak reflects none of the feedback and advice from Northern Ireland business people to the British Government regarding designated routes, costs and delays, infrastructure and bureaucracy. None of those concerns was taken on board in these proposals. Ms Angela McGowan, director of the Confederation of British Industry, commented on Twitter earlier today:
Such proposals are an absolute disgrace. Suggesting U.K. govt doesn't take NI's economy or peace process seriously! No support whatever from biz community!
As discussed many times in these Houses and at Westminster, due to EU sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, regulations relating to the agrifood industry, there is a limited number of options as to how we can proceed. We either ensure no regulatory divergence on either side of the Border, which means no checks are required, or, alternatively, we must check 100% of trucks and other vehicles crossing the Border.
We are seeing something sinister here, namely, a complete disregard for and lack of understanding of Northern Ireland issues. I wonder whether Mr. Johnson would consider his proposed template for the Border as equally suitable for the Scottish border with England in a scenario where he has pushed the Scots to opt for independence. Is it a model he would deem appropriate to operate along the border between Wales and England? The proposals include border checkpoints away from the Border, a 10-mile to 20-mile smuggling zone, surveillance and checkpoints, and technology to track and monitor movements. Perhaps I am misguided but I thought we had agreed 21 years ago to move away from that nightmarish scenario. It would be criminal to undo all the good work and achievements of the past two decades. Generations to come would not forgive us for allowing it to happen.
It takes strong leaders to make hard decisions. It takes stronger leaders to admit when they have been misguided and have got things wrong.. There are enough good people in Westminster and in the Northern Ireland Civil Service to recognise the car crash that is coming. I am confident that they will endeavour to stop the UK from failing off the cliff. It is important to remember that parliament is sovereign and must take control. This is not about individuals.
The EU in Ireland has played a straight bat and must continue to do so. It must continue to do the right thing as it has done until now because when the wind changes, as it has, one must reset one's sails. Where the UK is now means it needs to reset its sails. Ultimately, the citizens of the UK must be given the choice to make this call, to unite a country again, to build relationships again and to get back on track. Ultimately, the people must decide and the politicians need to follow the direction based on facts and not fiction or fantasy. Uncertainty is the order of the day north of the Border. Despite the valiant efforts of the civil services, businesses are understandably very worried. Credit must be given to the Irish Government and the civil servants south of the Border for their preparations and readiness in very challenging circumstances, based on very limited information. Brexit will pass but we all have a responsibility to reach agreements to deliver solutions to the challenges and to act for the long term and the greater good."
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