Any Brexit deal must be about not just protecting NI but allowing us to grow

Alliance Deputy Leader and Brexit Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has stressed that any Brexit deal must be about more than protecting this region from damage, but be a foundation for Northern Ireland to continue growing, transforming our economy and society.

Dr Farry was speaking ahead of a crucial meeting on Monday evening between the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker to ensure that sufficient progress has been made on all of the phase 1 issues in the Brexit negotiations, including the Irish border and protection of the Good Friday Agreement.

He added: “These coming days are not just crucial for the Brexit negotiations, but also the economic and political future of Northern Ireland. A hard Brexit would be really challenging for the UK as a whole, but a complete disaster for this region. So we have a direct interest in the talks not only succeeding, but delivering a specific outcome and a unique solution for Northern Ireland.

“It shouldn’t be any surprise that the Irish questions have become the most intractable in the Brexit process. Northern Ireland only works on the basis of sharing and interdependence, yet Brexit entails new divisions and barriers.

“Indeed, the Brexit process is already impacting on our economy, and contributing to a significant increase in the polarised nature of our politics.

“No one realistically believes that the Irish questions are going to be fully resolved at this stage, but enough clarity and certainty has to be given in terms of how an Irish border will be avoided and the Good Friday Agreement protected.

“Some key commitments may be made in terms of both the border and the Agreement. These cannot be loose statements, based on constructive ambiguity and meaning different things to different people. Instead there has to be a shared understanding of what is at stake and how existing co-operation, and movement of people and goods can be preserved.

“But Alliance is concerned that the focus is only around protecting and preserving what we already have. Northern Ireland is a society and an economy that is still going through a transition. We are still on that journey. Our participation within the European Union was a key means to enable than transformation. There is a real danger of a protected Northern Ireland just stagnating. We need to be able to continue to seize opportunities.

“It is in this context that we have talked about Northern Ireland being a bridge to both to Great Britain and to Ireland and the rest of the European Union. This is why our continued participation in the EU Single Market is so critical, as it covers not just goods but people, services and capital.

“Any deal over the coming days must be a foundation for this to continue.”

Bridges not Borders: Northern Ireland in the Single Market

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