Theresa May will visit Northern Ireland ahead of the triggering of Article 50, which will start the formal process of removing the UK from the EU. However, Mrs Long said it is almost unbelievable she would do so during the current devolution crisis and seek to remain outside of the ongoing talks.
“Brexit is without doubt the biggest political, economic and social challenge to face Europe and the UK in a generation. It has also divided the UK deeply in terms not only of support for Brexit, but also the challenges it presents in each region.
“The Prime Minister ought therefore to seek to discuss the matter with the devolved regions and be sensitive in seeking to represent their concerns, however, this whistle stop tour, far from demonstrating a willingness to engage and listen, seems to typify the lack of sensitivity to the particular challenges facing Northern Ireland, not least by the collapse of devolution.
“It is quite surreal to think Theresa May would visit Northern Ireland at a time when the very future of powersharing hangs in the balance, yet not feel compelled to actively participate in the current talks process. It suggests a Prime Minister who is either oblivious to the perilous state of devolution or simply doesn’t care.
“At what is a critical time in the negotiations and in the Brexit process, I think it is important the Prime Minister considers carefully the message such non-engagement will send to the people of Northern Ireland regarding the importance of devolution and Northern Ireland’s interests to her Government. Otherwise, what is intended to reassure people of her interest could spectacularly backfire.”