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GFA must be protected

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

GFA must be protected thumbnailHilary Benn

HILARY Benn, speaking at the House of Commons Brexit committee meeting in Armagh last week, stressed the importance of protecting the achievements of the Good Friday agreement.

Mr Benn, who is chair of the Exiting the European Union House of Commons Select Committee, referred to a recent publication of the committee and said: "We didn't currently see how you could reconcile, on the one hand, the desire for there to be no border, no infrastructure, which all of us support - the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement, security and the peace that it's brought must be maintained - and on the other hand, the UK's wish to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market.

"I think it's very interesting that in the last few days we've heard the British government talk about regulatory alignment, convergence between the whole of the United Kingdom and the EU because it seems to me that really does provide a way forward."

Mr Benn, who chaired a public evidence session before facing the media at the Armagh City hotel, was asked whether, given the delicacy of the situation, and with the juggling that had taken place between the UK and Irish Governments and the DUP, if it was understandable that the public might view what was happening through the cracks in their fingers?

"This is really important, the implications of Brexit for the United Kingdom, for the Republic Of Ireland, to the 27 states are enormous," said Mr Benn.

"I think all of us are really anxious that we do get onto phase two of the negotiations, because when all of this is going on, the clock is ticking.

"We have, what, 11 months to go before the negotiations are meant to end. We haven't even begun to discuss future trade relationships, security cooperation, which we have been discussing with our witnesses here today, the future of cooperation on foreign policy - there are loads of things to try and sort out."

At the conclusion of the public evidence session of the meeting, Mr Benn passed on his gratitude to those witnesses, including Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris and Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin who had provided evidence, and said: "First of all, can I thank you all for coming, but we've certainly got a really strong sense of the cooperation that there is between you and Europe, and the cooperation that there is across the border currently.

"And I want to thank you for the work you're doing. Can I also say particularly to you Mr Harris and to you Mr Martin how much we as a committee appreciate the bravery of you and your colleagues in the face of a continued terrorist threat, and we wish you every success in your work."

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