Responses To A Possible Hard Brexit

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Local parties pulling together to oppose Brexit.

In or out – which way will the dice fall?

As the UK hurtles towards a ‘possible’ hard Brexit, with two Brexiteers vie-ing for the position of PM in the Conservative leadership race, what do the local parties here in Northern Ireland make of it all.

Despite the rhetoric of current affairs programmes and articles in the media, the Tories seem to be dodging the elephant in the room… the fact that they might not have enough votes in the Commons to succeed in their effort to leave the EU despite their fantasies of leaving on the 31st October.

Labour is planning to bring forward a motion to put the brakes on Brexit and if Boris Johnston succeeds in his bid to become PM, it could be a poisoned chalice and will probably lead to a chaotic parliament, and the need for a referendum and / or an election will increase. These will be a tense and uncertain few months of political drama.

(Down News will try and illicit the views of the Unionist parties over the next few days to ensure a balanced coverage on the Brexit issue.)

Clear that no-deal Brexit will be disastrous says Hazzard.

South Down MP Chris Hazzard.

South Down Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has said an expert panel is not needed to show how disastrous the impact of a no-deal Brexit will be on the North.

The South Down MP said: “The British government has now convened a panel of experts to determine the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the North.

“It needn’t have bothered as a range of experts have already given dire warnings of the disastrous impact a no-deal Brexit will have on the North’s economy, our rights and the Good Friday Agreement.

“Despite all these warnings it is obvious that the Tories don’t care about the impact of Brexit on the North.

“While there is no such thing as a good Brexit, a no-deal Brexit can be avoided through the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop it contains. 

“That is the only message the Tories and the British Parliament need to hear.”

McGrath says North stands to lose the most.

South Down MLA Colin McGrath

SDLP South Down MLA Colin McGrath commented on Brexit and said: “What seems like a lifetime ago, Britain took the decision to call a public referendum as to whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in or leave the European Union.  

“The EU gave it their all and tried to persuade the people that they would be better off within the EU.  Yes, we all know the Union is far from perfect – that’s the European one and not the ‘precious’ one we hear the DUP speak of now – but surely it would be better to remain within the EU and try to orchestrate change from within as opposed to going out into the cold unknown?  

“But this wasn’t enough for the Brexiteers, so the Remainers tried their best to remind Britain of its own positive attributes and why it made the EU what it was.  SDLP members – the only party to officially campaign for remain here – walked the highways and byways of Northern Ireland to convince the public that Brexit was not in their best interests.  The public voted in favour of leaving – though not here in Northern Ireland – and the Brexit train began in earnest.

“Northern Ireland is without a doubt the part of the UK which will be most impacted by Brexit and stands to lose the most.  It has finally been put into the public domain that there is no version of Brexit that will be economically positive for anyone in the UK or Ireland.  We know this.  We know that relations between the North and UK are at an all-time low.  So what do we do?  Where do we go?  

“My colleagues within the SDLP and I have a clear vision of where we want to go.  Firstly, let’s get back to Stormont.  End the bickering and squabbling.  Let’s get back to doing what the public voted us to do and put in place checks and balances and delivery.  Should Brexit happen, only a strong and unified Executive will be able to fend off the great repeal.  

“Should a no deal Brexit occur, we must ensure that the backstop is banked.  Make no mistake, we the people of the North who fought for the Good Friday Agreement – the blueprint for peace – will not allow any tampering of this sacrosanct document, particularly in the face of a hard Brexit.  

“The potential for a hard Brexit has brought forward the very real possibility of a border poll being conducted.  We must be prepared for such an eventuality.  I’m glad to see that at long last others are finally coming round to the idea that there is no point in calling for a border poll if you have no sense of how to deliver it. 

“However, it is disappointing that it was abstentionism that has brought forward the possiblity of a hard Brexit and they must be held accountable for this. The politics of fear, extremism, division and apathy have had their day – in 2019 can we be bold, daring and courageous enough to usher in a new era that will allow the politics of hope, of progress, inclusivity and of true reconciliation to flourish in this land?  I do hope so.”

Brown states Alliance’s EU credentials.

Rowallane Councillor Patrick Brown.

Newry Mourne and Down District Rowallene Councillor Patrick Brown said: “The South Down Alliance Party has stood up against Brexit from the start. We recognise the huge adverse impact any Brexit will have on border communities and NI as whole. That’s why we brought a motion in May 2016 calling on Newry Mourne and Down District Council to endorse remaining in the EU.

“This was supported by SDLP, Sinn Fein and Independent Councillors. All Unionist representatives in this area voted against remaining in the EU. After the referendum result, Alliance ensured NMD Council was the first across Northern Ireland to call for a People’s Vote. With the lack of representation for remain voices in Westminster and the shambles of Stormont, local Alliance reps will continue to fight for a second referendum with the option to Remain.

“We will do that because there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit. The EU breaks down barriers between people and communities, and states and regions. In the modern world with its many challenges we are stronger through co-operation and pooling our sovereignty.

“No doubt Alliance’s clear and unequivocal position on Brexit is a primary reason why people right across Northern Ireland elected Naomi Long as their MEP on 23rd May, taking the 2nd seat ahead of Sinn Fein. For the first time ever, every single person in the province is represented by an Alliance voice, and Naomi will work tirelessly to ensure the democratic will of NI is heard in Brussels.  

“All forms of Brexit pose significant problems for Northern Ireland. Our economy depends on sales and supply chains across these islands. In particular, this region has a strength and dependence in relation to the agri-food sector which is substantially different from the rest of the UK.

“Northern Ireland voted to Remain. Therefore the reckless DUP narrative does not represent the majority of people here. The DUP has incorrectly dramatised the Brexit backstop as a threat to the Union, and which is not the case,” said Cllr Brown.