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Onus on Minister for Jobs to push for special status for north – Quinlivan

15 December, 2016 - by Maurice Quinlivan TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Maurice Quinlivan TD today called on the Irish Government to be more proactive in seeking special status for the north.  Speaking following a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on Brexit and attended by Minister Mitchell O’Connor, Deputy Quinlivan said:

“A summary of this Committee’s Brexit meetings noted that the type of border put in place following the UK’s exit from the EU was a major issue for the witness who came before it.  The report also expressed concerns that this state’s ‘unique’ vulnerability isn't being taken seriously enough in Brussels, or in London.

“Reports this week in the Wall Street Journal, Irish Times, and the EU Committee of the House of Lords report titled ‘Brexit: UK Irish Relations’ raise this very topic. 

“For example, the House of Lords report notes that the importance of free movement of labour to Northern Ireland in helping to boost a small domestic labour market, which is also faced with a steady exodus of young people, is of critical importance. 

“It cites the Agri-Food sector as a classic example of the north’s dependence on foreign labour. The sector supports 92,000 jobs.

“In the north, 60% of factory workers and 90% of seasonal labourers are non-UK nationals.

“Moreover, 7% of all employees in the north were born in the EEA (European Economic Area) – making it second only to London in its reliance on European employees.

“The Minister needs to read the House of Lords report which states it is in the interest of the Irish economy, north and south, that the current movement of people, goods and services within the island of Ireland is maintained.

“The only way to prevent a hard Border being introduced and to ensure the current situation prevails is for the UK to remain in the customs union or for the EU to allow a bilateral UK-Irish agreement on trade and customs. 

“The Minister and her Department officials need to proactively push this agenda at meetings of the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Brexit on which they sit and ensure that cross border trade and the free movement of people is protected.” 

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