Speaking to Delano on 5 December, Carpenter outlined the priorities for the Irish government on these negotiations:
“The Good Friday agreement, the Common Travel Area, the border, the peace funding the Europe has put into it, our land bridge, all of these are hugely important to us. We don’t see any way around not resolving them before we move on to talks about trade and other things.”
“Ireland will be more affected by Brexit than the UK”
Carpenter said that Ireland would be most affected by Brexit. The Irish economy was very interconnected with the British, and furthermore, the border issue was crucial.
“For Ireland, Brexit is going to present many challenges. We are in effect, in European terms, the island behind the Island--so we’re further removed from Europe. For us, it’s not only the border on the island: most of our trade and goods goes through the UK to Europe. It’s our land bridge as we would call it. There are many issues that we would have to resolve, but phase 1 was just about the Irish specific, so if we could do that, then we would have made a start. There are 5,000 northern SMEs doing business with the south, worth 15% of Northern Ireland trade. Through that, relationships have developed, links have been created and deepened. These things make for a natural and normal society and we don’t want that affected in any way.”
“No regulatory divergence”, which was set in the initial text, would mean that Northern Ireland would stay in the customs union, Carpenter explained. Afterwards, it was changed to “regulatory alignment”, but that was still not accepted by the DUP (which supports the national government in London).
Carpenter said that there was not much difference between the two wordings: “You’re talking about language, you’re talking about text. By their nature, people will go away and keep working at these and try to find a form of words. I think it will probably give you the same end result.”
The Irish ambassador elaborated further on how this would be beneficial to both sides, telling Delano on Tuesday:
“We share already a lot on the island of Ireland: the electricity market, agriculture there may be things slightly different from Great Britain. Arising from the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process, we have almost 150 different areas where we cooperate. One example on the island of Ireland is that we have one specialist centre for autistic children--only one on the island, in county Armargh on the northern side of the border. We have 4 centres of excellence for cancer care: East, West, North, South. We have mixing of schools, we have so many things in common, our waterways, our lochs, we share so much. We are an island, we’re not that big. So, it shouldn’t be beyond people to try and find some way that we can share and work together, and the gains that we got from the peace process and from the customs union and the single market should not be underestimated.”