Farry welcomes European Parliament attention on Northern Ireland issues

Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has welcomed the attention given by the European Parliament to the issues facing Northern Ireland following any Brexit.

A resolution discussing Northern Ireland remaining in the customs union and the European single market was backed by 562 MEPs. It follows the recent visit of the Parliament’s Chief Negotiator Guy Verhofstadt to the region.

Dr Farry said it was wrong for anyone to interpret this resolution as endorsing or advocating any border down the Irish Sea.

“Alliance is encouraged the European Parliament is rightly recognising insufficient progress has been made on resolving challenges relating to the border and protecting the Good Friday Agreement. We would disagree with the interpretations of some on its content. We do not regard it as a clear commitment to a special status for Northern Ireland, nor is it a call for a hard border down the Irish Sea. However, it does reinforce the need for special arrangements and unique solutions to be put in place for this region.

“We do not want to see a customs border emerge as it would have major political ramifications and would increase the cost of doing business. The surest way to avoid a hard border is for the UK as a whole agreeing a fresh customs union with the EU.

“The future of the single market can be detached from what happens with a customs union. In the event the UK as a whole opts to leave the single market, the core of a special deal for Northern Ireland could be continued participation in 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 Northern Ireland legislation and regulation remains fully aligned with EU law and the rules of the single market. Northern Ireland may diverge from the rest of the UK in terms of regulation, but this is what already happens in many respects under devolution.

“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 the whole community could unite around, and look to the future with confidence.”

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