Alliance Party Deputy Leader and Brexit spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has responded to an article in The Times newspaper regarding the Irish Government potentially favouring border controls down the Irish Sea by stressing that this type of speculation at this stage is unhelpful, and moreover that any special deal for Northern Ireland can and should be entirely consistent with its current constitutional status and the Principle of Consent.
Stephen Farry stated:
“Alliance recognises the concerns around and political implications of any new border being devised and enforced down the Irish Sea. The speculation around this approach is therefore not productive or helpful.
“There are already some form of checks and controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and we must all recognise that any form of Brexit, with or without special status, may lead to some more inevitably being introduced. However, it is wiser to focus at this stage on what type of special deal can be agreed for Northern Ireland and in turn how it would work.
“We need to maximise the freedom of movement of people and goods on both an east-west and a north-south basis.
“It is really important to understand that a special deal can be entirely consistent with Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the UK and the Principle of Consent for any constitutional change. Furthermore, it can be argued that a special deal is actually vital to preserve political stability.
“Positions on some form of special status or special arrangements for this region should not formulated along traditional unionist and nationalist lines. Rather, a special deal should be viewed as a pragmatic response to the challenges faced, including protecting and growing our local economy.
“Brexit, in particular a hard Brexit, poses all sorts of challenges and paradoxes, especially for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland can only work based upon sharing and interdependence, and that Brexit entails new divisions and barriers.
“It is vital to continue to advocate the case for a special deal for Northern Ireland. For Alliance, this would include continued participation for the region within the EU Single Market, continued adherence to the Four Fundamental Freedoms, and some arrangement in relation to the Customs Union.
“With regard to the latter, the easiest route to avoid a hard Border within these islands is for the UK to remain within the Customs Union and to recognise the hardnose economic reality that it is easier to maintain trade links with the EU and at the same time to open up new markets through that mechanism.”