Farry tells Brexit summit Northern Ireland needs special deal

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has told the All Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit that there is an ‘overwhelming case’ for a unique solution or special deal for Northern Ireland.

Dr Farry also used his speech to focus on the need to separate a special deal for Northern Ireland from pursuing a United Ireland, as well as touching on the devolution max solution for Northern Ireland, based on the region remaining in the single market.

He said: “I want to first put on record my thanks to the Irish Government for once again facilitating this dialogue, and more particularly for their ongoing commitment to finding as favourable and responsible an outcome from Brexit for Northern Ireland as possible.

“This is our first plenary meeting since the formal Article 50 negotiations commenced. And I have to say that we have yet to hear any realistic proposals from the UK Government that would protect the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard Border on the island.

“It is important to stress that as a divided society and a contested space, Northern Ireland can only really succeed based on sharing and interdependence, while Brexit entails new divisions and barriers.

“There is an overwhelming case for a unique solution or special deal for this region. For Alliance, in the event that the UK as a whole opts to leave the Single Market, the core of any special deal should be Northern Ireland continuing to be part of the Single market.

“In order for this to work, we would need to fully abide by the Four Fundamental Freedoms, including the Freedom of Movement of Labour. The Assembly would also need to have full competency to ensure that Northern Ireland legislation and regulation remains fully aligned with EU law and the rules of the Single Market.

“Such an outcome could be viewed as a Devolution Max scenario for Northern Ireland. And notably, it would be fully consistent with the current constitutional settlement and the Principle of Consent.

“It is the type of pragmatic approach that the whole community in Northern Ireland could unite around, and look to the future with confidence.

“However, we do need to address the reality that in Northern Ireland, Brexit has become a green and orange issue. Identity politics are driving people to polar opposite approaches. We really need to focus on building a cross-community approach in Northern Ireland.

“Therefore, while I fully respect the right of various parties and people to argue for, or indeed against, constitutional change, if we conflate the achievement of special deal for Northern Ireland with the pursuit of a united Ireland, it will be fatal to creating a cross-community consensus.

“A united Ireland is not a development that is going to happen soon. But we have a clear and present danger from Brexit that must be averted, and this must be our immediate focus and priority.

“Alliance remains fully committed to working in close partnership with both governments and with all other stakeholders.

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