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Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union: Statements- Wedneday 6th November 2019

I thank the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, for his comments on Brexit. I commend the Government and all the civil servants on the work they have completed so far on this because the one word that resonates through everybody and every business in the land, North or South, is "uncertainty", and dealing with uncertainty in business is a problem at present.

It is important to reference that there has been much focus in the past few weeks and months on the North-South complexity of a land border there but the Tánaiste stressed the point that the east-west relationship, and especially the interdependence of both these islands post-Brexit, whatever that looks like, is equally as important.

Based on the upcoming elections, we may see change in the current representation in Northern Ireland and we may see the change in the dynamic of the representation we have at Westminster in Northern Ireland. It is an understatement to say there is a nervousness in all businesses and among all citizens north of the Border. Businesses, especially in agrifood, are very concerned that they do not know enough detail at present. Even though the deal will avert a land border, which was a major concern in this House and in the Lower House, the disruption and complexity at the Northern Ireland ports are a concern of businesses with paperwork, with documentation and all the other bits and pieces that will be thrown at them. As much as we have averted one problem, there is a concern that we could have created another problem at the sea ports.

A number of Senators, led by the Chair of the Seanad Special Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom, Senator Richmond, were fortunate to visit Dublin Port this morning. The work done to date is a credit to all those involved in the management and the port authorities. They were faced with a number of challenges, such as the size of the site and the uncertainty of what Brexit would look like. In my opinion, and I am sure the other Senators would echo these comments, they have done a commendable job in dealing with the Brexit implications for them.

I refer to the work done in respect of the stakeholders and the complexity that has been dealt with. The Tánaiste mentioned that the UK Government north of the Border will consult with politicians and civic society on any potential impact or agreements that there will be post-Brexit. I would be interested to know what the Tánaiste's feeling is on the civic engagement because there has been some articles in the press this week about civic engagement and civic dialogue. I have had a bit of engagement with a number of people about civic engagement because sometimes the people are ahead of the politicians on some of these matters. It will be paramount that we have that dialogue. Does the Tánaiste envisage formal mechanisms or what does he see as a way of taking that forward because there is a level of uncertainty with this continual reference to taking a position north of the Border that everyone has a say, everyone is represented and everyone is heard? I would be interest if the Tánaiste could comment on that.

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