UK Government position on Northern Ireland in Brexit is contradictory, says Alliance

Alliance Party Deputy Leader and Brexit Spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said the UK Government is sending out contradictory signals regarding Northern Ireland, adding full consideration should be given to allowing Northern Ireland as a region to remain within the EU Single Market, alongside continuing to operate within the UK Single Market.

Mr Farry was responding to a speech by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire MP, to the European Policy Centre in Brussels.

He said: “As exemplified by the comments of the Secretary of State in Brussels today, the UK Government is making inconsistent, contradictory and incompatible statements around the outcome for Northern Ireland under Brexit.

“There are aspirations to protect the Good Friday Agreement, without fulling articulating its depth and the implications for a shared and interdependent Northern Ireland, and to put in place ‘bespoke solutions’ that reflects our particular circumstances. Moreover, there is a commitment to avoid a hard border with physical infrastructure on the island of Ireland.

“Yet, the UK Government is committed to leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, and the Secretary of State again stressed that ‘I find it difficult to imagine how Northern Ireland could somehow remain in … while the rest of the country leaves’. Some encouragement can perhaps be taken that this is not an absolute closure on the option of an outcome in which Northern Ireland remains within the Single Market. However, this ambiguity needs to be clarified.

“Fundamentally, in the event that the UK does not have a Customs Union with the European Union, then some type of physical border will become inevitable, with all of the political, economic and security implications that will flow from that.

“So far, the offer of ‘bespoke solutions’ does not seem to go far enough to genuinely understand or address the particular circumstances in Northern Ireland. Alliance is advocating an outcome in which Northern Ireland can remain within the EU Single Market, while retaining participation in the UK Single Market. We do not believe that these are mutually exclusive and moreover would be entirely consistent with the current constitutional position and the Principle of Consent. We believe that the UK Government has a duty and responsibility to fully consider this scenario if they are to properly protect the Good Friday Agreement and to allow Northern Ireland’s economy to flourish.”

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