Tanaiste Simon Coveney (pictured above, third from right) at the Cross Border Conference on Brexit on Wednesday. PIC: Arthur Kinahan.
There must be no backtracking on the British Government's committment that no hard border will be imposed in the wake of Brexit, Fianna Fail TD Declan Breathnach has said.
The Deputy made his comments - in which he warned against complacency on the issue - on Wednesday after attending the Cross Border Conference on Brexit, hosted by Dundalk Chamber of Commerce in the Carrickdale Hotel.
The event - which saw Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney (pictured above with (l-r): Frank Pentony, Liam Hannaway, Paul Convery, Cllr Roisin Mulgrew Louth CoCo cathaoirleach Colm Markey, Michael Gaynor and Mary Meehan) speak to the assembled crowd - was geared towards helping business north and south of the border prepare for the UK's formal departure from the European Union.
“Following the Phase 1 agreement before Christmas, the British Government gave a guarantee that no border controls would be imposed on the Ireland of island post-Brexit," Breathnach (below) said.
"This commitment needs to be honoured, and the Irish Government must work with our EU partners to ensure that there is absolutely no backtracking on this issue.
The UK Government are now preparing for Phase 2 trade negotiations and the Knockbridge native is insistent that the decision against a hard border cannot be reversed.
“The imposition of a hard border would cause untold damage to border counties such as Louth. It would be a massive blow to the local economy and would cause serious hardship for people who live on one side of the border and work on the other," he continued.
"It would also represent a significant setback to the peace process. This has the potential to setback development in border areas by decades, and it’s vital that our Government works to ensure that Britain honours the commitments it made prior to Christmas.
Deputy Breathnach added; “I’m deeply concerned by the current commentary emanating from British politicians. They say that they want a close trading relationship with the European Union and no hard border on the island of Ireland.
"However at the same time they insist that they do not want to remain part of the Customs Union. You cannot have one without the other and this is something that the EU negotiators have stressed time and time again. However it seems the message is not sinking in in some quarters.
“The Irish Government and our EU partners need to be tough with the British Government on this issue. We cannot allow any complacency to set in. No hard border can be allowed to emerge on the island of Ireland."
Wednesday's Brexit conference was hosted by Dundalk Chamber in conjunction with Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade, Louth Enterprise Office, Louth County Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.