Lady Margaret Ritchie to reject Brexit deal in Lord’s vote.
The politician who is the voice of democratic Irish nationalism in the House of Lords will this evening vote against the Brexit deal in a special sitting of parliament.
Former SDLP leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie believes the agreement is a “victory for madness” as it will cause huge division, economic damage and the loss of freedom and rights for millions.
Lady Ritchie said: “Brexit is, and always has been, an act of astonishing and reckless self-harm by a British Tory government obsessed with the sentimental lunacy of a sovereignty that simply cannot exist in the modern world.
“In the 2016 referendum, Northern Ireland voted by a convincing margin to stay in the EU. Now we have been dragged out against our will. This deal leaves us the clear losers and I will not vote for it. I want nothing to do with it.”
Lady Ritchie said it was true that this “thin, wretched” deal was better than no deal at all, although she added: “That’s only true in the sense that a catastrophe is slightly worse than a disaster.
“It will still cause untold damage to our lives, our communities, our economy and our political relationships. The best deal we had was remaining in the EU. The UK wantonly tore that up, and now the reckoning begins.”
Lady Ritchie added that more details were needed on what the full impact on Northern Ireland business would be of pulling out of Europe.
“We don’t know the true scope of that yet and, given that there has been next to no information coming out of Whitehall to allow companies to prepare, it may be some time before a comprehensive picture emerges.
“There is no doubt that the Northern Ireland protocol will help us maintain links with Europe by keeping Northern Ireland in the single market for goods.
“But it will inevitably cause disruption in trade flows to and from Britain. Also, the protocol does not cover areas such as services and fishing and it does not restore rights and freedom of movement to the many UK citizens living on the island of Ireland.”
On fishing – a key area in the final deal negotiations with Brussels – Lady Ritchie noted that the Northern Ireland Fishing Federation had reservations about the agreement.
“They believe they have been sold out to achieve a wider free trade agreement and that promises were made and broken. The deal falls considerably short of their objectives and the financial support offered by the UK Government to help the sector is paltry.”
There was no question, she added, that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government had sold out Northern Ireland and the DUP – a fact that they seem intent on ignoring.
“It’s a plain fact that the Irish Government in Dublin has done far more to help people and businesses here than Tory ministers in London have.
“It drove the Northern Ireland protocol, and now it has agreed to fund both the Erasmus+ scheme that will allow our young people to continue to study in Europe and the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that gives everyone here ongoing comprehensive medical cover in the EU.
“These are generous and welcome initiatives, and I am sure that Dublin will be exploring how it can further help to soften the blow of leaving for the people of the North.”
Lady Ritchie continued: “Let us make no mistake… we now face an entirely new political, economic, social and cultural landscape across this island.
“That will rightly provoke an impassioned debate about our shared future.
“We need to all start preparing for that change”.