Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has called for the rhetoric against the backstop to be de-escalated and the wider political and economic interests of Northern Ireland to be understood, compared to the distorted views of the DUP.
“This is a time of huge political crisis for the UK and for Northern Ireland in particular. The major outstanding issue in the Withdrawal Agreement relates to finalising the backstop to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland and to protect the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
“Our future is being determined over our heads. But not only does Northern Ireland not have any formal voice, but the interests of this region are being badly distorted and misrepresented by the DUP and in turn amplified through the confidence and supply arrangement.
“The UK Government and Opposition are risking a catastrophic no-deal Brexit based on a counter-productive and short-sighted political agenda, a disregard of the political and economic interests of Northern Ireland, and a misunderstanding of the Agreement. The DUP are potentially dragging down not only Northern Ireland but the UK as a whole.
“The rhetoric around the backstop being a breach of the Principle of Consent and a constitutional problem is simply wrong. Northern Ireland already does many things differently through devolution, including aspects of economic policy. The backstop if ever implemented would only build upon these precedents.
“Northern Ireland is already a different and special place. It only works on the basis of sharing and interdependence. And while it remains part of the UK through the Principle of Consent, the internal, north-south, and east-west relationships all need to co-exist in harmony and balance.
“While all forms of Brexit would be damaging, special arrangements for Northern Ireland that build upon the backstop would allow the region to be part of both the UK market and the larger EU markets at the same time, and provide some comparative advantage that could be attractive to investment. It would be a tragedy of narrow politics meant that this potential transformative opportunity was passed up.
“It is time for a de-escalation of the rhetoric against the backstop and for a more realistic and mature assessment and understanding of the road ahead.”