Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has expressed scepticism anything viable will emerge from tomorrow’s Brexit Cabinet meeting.
Dr Farry was speaking ahead of a Cabinet retreat to Chequers, where Prime Minister Theresa May and Ministers will discuss Brexit issues. He said in the short-run, the UK Government had no alternative but to come to terms with some form of backstop around the border.
“Given past performances, it is inevitable people will be sceptical over the prospects of this meeting. The UK Government has essentially wasted the past six months, focusing more on trying to maintain internal unity than practical and realistic engagement, while attacking those, such as the business community, raising legitimate concerns.
“Based upon media reports to date, the mooted white paper does not provide a viable way forward. The fudge on a new customs partnership and Max Fac would provide a cumbersome, bureaucratic, and untested way forward, and undermine the core mechanisms of the EU.
“As things stand, the UK is set to stumble into a no deal situation. This would be catastrophic for the UK as a whole and particularly for Northern Ireland. The only way to protect the UK economy and to avoid any barriers within these islands is for the UK to seek to be a member of the EEA and to have a new Customs Union with the EU.
“However, in the short run, the only way in which a Withdrawal Agreement and the associated Transition Deal can be secured is through the UK agreeing legal text putting into effect the backstop agreed by the UK and the EU back in the December Joint Report. There can no wider deal without providing insurance on the Northern Ireland – Ireland border.
“Yet no political preparation is happening with the Conservative Government and their DUP allies in terms of these clear realities. For Alliance, while the backstop is not perfect, it does nevertheless represent a foundation on which we can build.
“It is possible for us to be a bridge between the UK and the EU and to obtain significant comparative advantages from that. This is the essence of our ‘bridges not borders’ concept.”