Below is a joint letter from the Northern Ireland pro-remain majority parties to President of the European Council Donald Tusk on Brexit and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement… but first, I have to let off some steam.
It’s not often that I give off to our politicians – national and regional – but on this occasion I just can’t hold it back as I watch the fuse burn before my face.
The Unionist parties are in tunnel vision mode looking anxiously for a Brexit either hard or soft (which may precipitate the break up of the United Kindom, but that is another issue) and the pro-remain alliance of MLA’s are seeking to avoid a Brexit at all costs as evidenced by the letter printed below.
This polarisation essentially means the Stormont Assembly will never come back into operation in the coming months. The PM is calling for a hard Brexit if no deal can be struck and the clock is ticking – then surely, would a legal test case challenging the government’s determination to leave not test our fundamental human rights of political representation and freedom of expression ? Am I missing something? Many people are aggrieved by the terms that the referendum was delivered on. I don’t see any legal challenge over the horizon.
The government could possibly yet be taken to court for failure to honour an international treaty, ie the Good Friday Agreement which has provided stability here for the past 20 years. The current approach to Brexit by the new PM’s cabinet has become an ideological obsession by a group of Tories centred around their own survival and it masks the real arguments for a proper meaningful Brexit. It may well be the best way to go, but it is being implemented in the wrong manner and will likely have severe consequences and do irreparable harm to us all regardless which side we are on.
We need to go back to the drawing board and mend the wounds that have opened up through Brexit. We need something like a ROYAL COMMISSION to examine the pros and cons of a Brexit in a manner as objective as possible, free of the internicine party wrangling. And this Royal Commission could on balance examine the the implications of the UK remaining in the EU. We need the positives and negatives of leave and remain drafted out so they are clear and intelligible to the population in a booklet that should be sent to every home in the country. We never had had this to date and it is imperative it is done. But may well be too late. What we have now is Boris spending millions on a campaign to leave. Booklets Boris! Booklets!!!
We need to be mature about this and throw our hands up in the air and admit ‘we got it wrong’… and start again – the media, the public, and the party political system is severely divided over Brexit and the answer is simple… step back from the cliff edge together and do it right next time… do the research, the studies, the homework, and present it in a manner befitting of well paid politicians who should be accountable to the masses who vote for them.
But all of this could be nit-picked by sceptics afraid of truth and democracy, and not getting their own way. I appreciate that. I am thick skinned so have no fears about that. And I will repeat my position on Brexit for clarity’s sake: I am prepared to go either way based on a properly informed case and at the moment I am as confused as the next man (and woman) about the veracity of Brexit.
So, is it time our politicians in Northern Ireland created a constitutional catharis and resigned thus forcing a Stormont election which should reflect the will of the majority of people in the North? Maybe the Scottish and Welsh assemblies could follow suit!! It is a huge ask of them and certainly would be a last gasp option to get a mandate to create a fresh approach and understanding to Brexit.
After all, many people have the perception that the only functioning department of the Assembly in NI is the wages’ department which pays the MLA’s wages!
If they showed that level of commitment to public duty beyond their own party self-interest and personal self-interest then maybe it will consolidate their future authority as parties and as candidates worthy of our votes. We need now more that ever politicians willing to honour their public responsibilities., probably more than ever!
I have no doubt whatsoever that our MLA’s are a very hard working group of people who serve their constituencies, but we are dealing with a extraordinary situation and it is time to THINK OUT OF THE BOX and deal with Brexit square on before the value of our political system is even further devalued and before it is too late.
The GFA must be protected as a matter of common sense and decency.
THE LETTER TO DONALD TUSK
22 August 2019.
His Excellency Mr Donald Tusk,
Rue de la Loi, B-1048 Brussels, Belgium.
Dear Mr Tusk,
The proposed date of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, 31 October, is fast approaching.
As leaders of local political parties who represent the cross-community majority who voted to remain in the EU we have grave concerns about the current trajectory toward a no-deal Brexit and the impact this would have on our economy, our border and community cohesion.
An analysis carried out by the Northern Ireland Civil Service has predicted job losses in the region of 40,000 if we’re forced from the EU without a deal. The British government’s own analysis has predicted significant disruption to integrated supply chains across this island rendering cross-border trade in our agri-food sector virtually impossible for many operators. It has also warned that the open border that has underpinned our political settlement would be unsustainable within months.
It is our view that the progress made in developing integrated and enduring relationships on this island, politically, economically and socially, over the last 20 years is far too important to abandon. Particularly at a moment when those relationships are being tested.
With that in mind, and with no functioning Executive or Assembly currently in place in Northern Ireland to give expression to the democratic wishes of people here, we write to you to confirm our support for the backstop contained within the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration. It is our view that a legally operable guarantee to protect the Good Friday Agreement, maintain north-south co-operation and preserve the all-island economy and to prevent a return to physical infrastructure on our border or physical checks at or near the border is necessary to preserve the progress that we have made.
We trust that the approach adopted by the European Institutions to defend all that we have achieved will continue in the weeks ahead.
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Assembly Leader and Vice President of Sinn Féin
Colum Eastwood MLA, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party
Naomi Long MEP, Leader of the Alliance Party
Clare Bailey MLA, Leader of the Green Party
Chris Lyttle MLA John Dallat MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir MLA
Maire Hendron MLA Órlaithí Flynn MLA Seán Lynch MLA
Gerry Kelly MLA Alex Maskey MLA Jemma Dolan MLA
Nichola Mallon MLA Fra McCann MLA Colm Gildernew MLA
Carál Ní Chuilín MLA Pat Sheehan MLA Mark H Durkan MLA
Paula Bradshaw MLA Stewart Dickson MLA Raymond McCartney MLA
Claire Hanna MLA Karen Mullan MLA Caoimhe Archibald MLA
Pat Catney MLA Conor Murphy MLA Emma Rogan MLA
Trevor Lunn MLA Philip McGuigan MLA Colin McGrath MLA
Linda Dillon MLA Steven Agnew MLA Kellie Armstrong MLA
Emma Sheerin MLA Stephen Farry MLA Dolores Kelly MLA
Patsy McGlone MLA John Blair MLA John O’Dowd MLA
Cathal Boylan MLA Declan Kearney MLA Maolíosa McHugh MLA
Megan Fearon MLA Sinéad Bradley MLA Catherine Kelly MLA
Justin McNulty MLA Sinéad Ennis MLA Declan McAleer MLA
Daniel McCrossan MLA.