Unhelpful for Committee to discuss both Brexit and united Ireland in one report, says Farry

Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry has said it is “unhelpful” an Oireachtas Committee report into Brexit also discusses achieving a united Ireland.

Dr Farry said the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement on Brexit and its Impact on Ireland report should have separated the case for a special deal for Northern Ireland from the debate on Irish unity, instead focusing on building cross-community support for special arrangements here.

“There are real dangers in conflating building the case for a special deal for Northern Ireland and also how the island as a whole plans for Brexit, with the case for and planning for Irish unity. People are perfectly entitled to pursue their constitutional aspirations and consider how a united Ireland could be delivered. However, this must be decoupled from the immediate challenges of Brexit. It is therefore unhelpful for the Committee to consider both of these matters within one report.

“Alliance recognises the threats of Brexit to the Good Friday Agreement, our economy and society, and indeed the island as a whole. Northern Ireland can only work on the basis of sharing and interdependence, but Brexit introduces new divisions and barriers. We believe there is an overwhelming case for some form of special arrangements being put in place for this region. This includes remaining part of the Single Market and continued adherence to the four fundamental freedoms, and in the absence of the UK as whole remaining within the Customs Union, some arrangement around customs.

“However, the challenges in achieving this type of outcome cannot be underestimated. The case has to be made and won with the UK Government and with the EU. But perhaps most crucially, the case has to be won in Northern Ireland. Public opinion and political parties were already polarised on the issue of Brexit at the time of the referendum, and this polarisation has intensified since. Increasingly, the call for special status is being perceived as a means to accelerate the achievement of a united Ireland.

“The case for a special deal for Northern Ireland has to be built on a pragmatic response to the particular challenges posed by Brexit. It has to have cross-community support to be effective and to be sustainable. Any special deal must be understood as being consistent with the principle of consent and its current outworking.

“The space must be preserved for people to continue to argue and build support for different constitutional outcomes, including a united Ireland, and it is helpful the EU have clarified a united Ireland would automatically be a member state if that outcome came to pass.”

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