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Order of Business

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

As this is the last Order of Business in 2017, I take the opportunity to wish the Cathaoirleach, the Leas-Chathaoirleach and their staff a very happy Christmas. I thank all of them for their work to date. I thank all of the staff in the Seanad Office, including Martin and Brigid, for their help throughout the year. I also thank the Leader of the House, the group leaders and all other Senators for their contributions throughout the year. I wish everyone a very happy Christmas and new year.
The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. To date, the discussions have focused mainly on the Border, how much the United Kingdom owes the European Union, what will happen to EU citizens living in the United Kingdom and to UK citizens living in the European Union, the future trading relationship and the Single Market and the transition period. Thankfully, on 8 December there was a breakthrough deal on the Border thanks to the hard work of our Ministers and the perseverance of civil servants in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It is to be hoped the agreement and the heads of terms outlined in it will become a legally binding document without dilution in the weeks to come.
As the President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, said last week, the first phase was the easy part. Those who say the key issues have been settled definitively are clearly fooling themselves. I have a number of very specific points on which I seek clarification from the Government. Will it explain exactly what the definition of a frictionless Border is? It obviously involves no physical barriers, but is the Government stating it will also involve no payments or trade costs? What differences are anticipated in the current cross-Border arrangements and what changes would be acceptable to people on both sides of the Border and the Government? We know that the objective is for there to be no change. However, if there is to be a change, how much of this fits within the Government's understanding of what is acceptable? Would a Canada-plus type deal be acceptable, as proposed by the British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Mr. David Davis? Unfortunately, it is now beyond doubt from statements made that there are profoundly different views on what the agreement involves, its status and implications. The commitment to having an open border is contradicted by statements the United Kingdom as a whole will leave the customs union and the Single Market. In the case of Ireland, the agreement states regulatory alignment will be maintained if there is no overall deal. If there is no overall deal, the United Kingdom's membership of both the customs union and the Single Market will automatically lapse. Has the Government received assurances from the European Union on what will happen in such circumstances?