It came in the aftermath of the publication of the draft EU Withdrawal Treaty with the UK, which essentially gives insurance guarantees around protecting the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Dr Farry said any hard Brexit would bring about new divisions, barriers and frictions, when Northern Ireland only worked on the basis of sharing and interdependence.
“Short of Brexit itself being reversed, Alliance’s priorities are to ensure current and future economic relationships both east-west and north-south are supported, protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“For Alliance, this would see the entire UK remaining within a Customs Union with the EU and also Northern Ireland as a region remaining part of the Single Market. Any special measures should be understood as being purely economic in nature and entirely consistent with the principle of consent. This draft essentially gives a backstop commitment to avoid a hard border on the island or Ireland and protects the Good Friday Agreement.
“Therefore, this text should bring home to the UK Government the contradictions and fallacies of their Brexit positions and drive them towards an outcome that sees the UK as a whole remaining in the Customs Union. This would go a long way to avoiding a hard border, and also reduces damage to the UK economy while delivering upon the preference of the leading voices of business and industry.
“If everyone is committed to avoiding a hard border, then the only options are for either a UK-wide arrangement on the Customs Union and Single Market or a Northern Ireland-specific solution. If this insurance policy kicked in, any bespoke free trade agreement between the rest of the UK and the EU, as it would fall short of a Customs Union, would not eliminate the need for any checks and it is important to acknowledge that reality, though it would be expected tariff schedules would be aligned.
“It is only full ongoing participation in the Single Market which will comprehensively protect the Good Friday Agreement and existing north-south co-operation, and allow Northern Ireland to grow and develop new economic opportunities. If done right, Northern Ireland has the prospect of being a bridge between the rest to the UK and the EU.”