06/03/2019 AT 3.20 PM

Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union

(Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019


Deputy Declan Breathnach: As a Border Deputy and a newcomer in this House, little did I think in February 2016 that we would be debating an omnibus Bill on the issue of any country exiting the European Union.  It is the catalyst for dramatic change on these islands.


I thought it would be important that I contribute to the closing of this debate.  I will start where Deputy Lisa Chambers left off, in that I am sure that quite a number of issues have not been debated.  I raised particular concerns during the week, but I have no doubt that those concerns will be dealt with by various statutory instruments.  People in my constituency are asking questions on this and that point and I encourage the Government to participate in as many bilateral meetings as possible, if necessary before exit day.  If further legislation is required I am sure it will come before this House.

I commend not only the preparatory work undertaken by officials and others, and the co-operation of political parties in this House in terms of the delivery of this omnibus Bill, but indeed the whole process itself.  Regardless of what political party one is involved with or what involvement people had through the process, whether involvement in the civil dialogue or the break-out sessions, we did not take our hands from the tiller.   We might criticise the level of preparedness or the level of debate or engagement but we did not lose track, unlike many others who thought that this issue was going to go away.  Whether there will be a D-day, decision day, exit day or May day, I still say we should beware the Ides of March.  The public are fed up listening to us talking about Brexit.  They do not realise we might end up with two different time zones, as has been mentioned in recent days.  There could be a 4% to 6% reduction in GDP, together with an increase in consumer prices of up to 30%.  The public will know then why we have spent so much time talking about Brexit.

We have been engaged in a game of who will blink first, or Russian roulette.  I am reminded of the Kenny Rogers song, as some people are “on a train bound for nowhere”, and there comes a time when people need to know when to fold and to hold.  These islands will be on a backwards trajectory unless people come to their senses.  In my view, the natives of the Border area are growing restless, and many of the reports in recent days suggest we could go back to the bad old days.

There has been a lot of debate about the green card.  I am old enough to remember that this was not just about having car insurance.  People talk about the common travel area but I remember when it was not a case of one’s car being insured but was a question of whether one would be able to bring one’s car or lorry back, where one had to have one’s vehicle bonded upon leaving the jurisdiction.  I am too long in the tooth and I remember what it was like in the bad old days for our economy – I am not referring to the Troubles – and it is time that people come to the realisation in all Houses, be they North, South, east or west, that these islands need to work collaboratively and to take a step back from that ultimate brink.

We should not have spent the last two years talking about “no deal preparation”, or NDP, but rather about the NDP that is the national development plan and how it will have an impact in this country into the future.  While we may not have wasted two and a half years, we certainly have not been debating the issues that the people believe are more important than the Brexit debates we have had.  These debates have not got down into the nitty-gritty involved, and probably will not until we reach the cliff edge.