“The DUP is not representing this region’s economic and political interests. Their current stance is taking us over the cliff to a no-deal Brexit,” he said.
“The need for a backstop only arises from the UK’s decision to leave the EU and to rule out staying in a Customs Union and the Single Market. Economically, Northern Ireland looks both north-south and east-west in terms of supply chains and sales. There is a clear need to maintain an open land border in Ireland and to protect the Good Friday Agreement.
“Any hard Brexit therefore poses challenges, with no perfect or magical solution. The mooted additional light touch checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland represents the least damaging approach to take. In the event any backstop was implemented, trade would continue unhindered. Indeed, while Brexit itself is an overall negative, the backstop itself does provide Northern Ireland with an opportunity to have a foot in both camps and have advantageous trading terms with both Great Britain and the EU.
“By contrast, any no deal Brexit will have catastrophic consequences for Northern Ireland politically and economically. The UK will be isolated outside of the EU and all of its trade deals. Overnight all sectors, especially manufacturing and agri-food sectors, will face significant barriers to neighbouring markets.
“The stakes are high and require responsible leadership. The DUP have a choice of either rowing back on advocating a hard Brexit or recognising the need for a pragmatic safety net for Northern Ireland.”