Alliance Party Deputy Leader and Brexit Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has welcomed further efforts by the European Commission to de-dramatise the proposed backstop and called upon the UK Government to respond positively, as it is in UK’s interest to do in order to secure the Withdrawal Agreement.
Speaking earlier today, Dr Farry further called for greater pragmatism within Northern Ireland recognition of the potential for the region to gain a comparative economic advantage if Brexit proceeds.
Stephen Farry said: “Alliance is encouraged at continued efforts by Michael Barnier and the EU’s Article 50 Taskforce to reach a conclusion on the backstop. The backstop must be an essential component of any Withdrawal Agreement. Therefore to avoid the catastrophic no deal situation, the UK Government does need to reach an agreement on this point.
“The backstop carries the minimum required to avoid a hard border and to protect the Good Friday Agreement. That need only arises from the decision of the UK to leave the European Union and the dismissal of the Government and its allies in the DUP of a UK-wide soft Brexit based around continued participation in the Single Market and a new Custom Union.
“It is only intended as a safety net, and should be superseded by the future relationship. The backstop must be seen in purely pragmatic and economic terms. It is not a constitutional question. Northern Ireland’s status can only be addressed through the Principle of Consent. Northern Ireland remains part of the UK, but already under devolution Northern Ireland handles a wide range of economic and other matters differently. Nor would the backstop cut off or hinder access to Great Britain.
“The backstop is far from perfect. It is essentially defensive in nature. But if the UK continues to rule out a Customs Union and membership of the Single Market, the backstop should inform the nature of any special arrangements for Northern Ireland. While Brexit as a whole would be damaging, these would nevertheless allow Northern Ireland to position itself as a bridge between the Great Britain and the European Union. We could have a foothold in both and as such seek comparative economic advantage. Many in the business community are already seeing this opportunity.
“The UK needs a deal on the backstop and should provide positively to the revised formulation coming from the Commission. In turn, it is important that all political voices in Northern Ireland stand up for the economic interests of this region. It would be a tragic and historic mistake if intransigence around the backstop not only means a missed opportunity but condemns Northern Ireland to economic stagnation and even deeper political turmoil.”