Long lays out dangers of no deal Brexit to new Secretary of State

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MEP has said she laid out clearly to the new Secretary of State the dangers a no deal Brexit would bring to Northern Ireland.

Mrs Long was speaking after her first meeting with Julian Smith at Stormont House, which she described as “cordial but candid”.

“We are at a critical juncture, with no Executive or Assembly, a change of Government and Brexit looming ever closer. We stressed the need for stability and clarity, but also for realism, when it comes to Brexit,” she said.

“As Secretary of State, Julian Smith faces the massive challenge of getting an Executive restored urgently, particularly in the context of Brexit, and the prospect of a snap General Election in the autumn does not make that task any simpler. That must be his focus as the current hiatus is completely unsustainable.

“Given the tone of the new Prime Minister, we were especially frank about the impact a no deal Brexit will have on Northern Ireland. It would be catastrophic for our economy, with many small and medium-sized enterprises simply unable to survive the added costs of delays and disruption to supply chains and market access. Sectors like agri-foods and logistics would also be massively impacted.

“However, we also stressed the border is not just an economic interface between two customs and trade zones, but has been the main cleavage in Irish politics as a whole. The renewed focus on the border has been traumatising to many in border communities, who feel vulnerable to any change, and it has also destabilised the political equilibrium created by the Good Friday Agreement.

“Theresa May eventually realised the damage a no deal Brexit would inflict on Northern Ireland and sought to negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement and backstop to avoid the worst of that. We need the new Secretary of State, who voted for that package, to impress upon the Prime Minister these cold, hard realities and do his best to influence UK Government policy to prevent it.”