Responding to the publication by the government of its position paper on Northern Ireland and Ireland, Michael Young, interim CEO of the European Movement UK, said:
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“The European Movement UK has its origins in fostering peace with our European neighbours and partners and this is an essential part of our mission.
“We also fundamentally believe that it is in the UK’s best interests to be in the European Union, in the customs union and in the single market.
“By being in the EU, the customs union and the single market the UK derives many unique benefits, which we want to safeguard. The government’s obsession with exiting the customs union because of the advisory EU Referendum last June, where almost half of voters wanted to remain in the EU – including the majority of voters in Northern Ireland, risks unsettling the hard-won peace process in Northern Ireland.
“This is notwithstanding the considerable efforts of many in these Islands to heal divides; the huge loss of life because of the Troubles; and the suffering, bravery and persistence of those who live and work in Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“Ministers need to recognise that advisory measures can and should be amended when they threaten hard-won gains. Situations and views can change quickly and, with that, the need to change course also emerges and this is what government must do as it negotiates with our colleagues and friends in Europe.
“The simple adjustment of staying within the customs union would remove at a stroke the potential dangers the border question risks opening up and we call upon the Government to be flexible in its approach.
“The European Movement branch in Northern Ireland has expressed its deep concern that the proposals are simply unworkable and there needs to be fundamental recognition of the serious administrative burden this will pose not only on businesses, but also voluntary organisations and devolved departments.
“Government needs to recognise the easiest way to a ‘seamless and frictionless’ border is to remain in the single market and have a common customs union, which doesn’t jeopardise the peace process.”