Margaret Ritchie urges British PM to protect Northern Ireland in “grisly” Brexit talks.
One of Northern Ireland’s leading politicians has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to sign a Brexit deal that protects trade with both Britain and the rest of the EU.
Former South Down MP Margaret Ritchie says businesses here in Northern Ireland are desperate for clarity over what the new arrangements will be when the transition ends on January 1.
As the only voice of democratic Irish nationalism in the House of Lords, she has consistently opposed Brexit and fought for Northern Ireland to maintain as close a relationship with the EU as possible.
Speaking only hours before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets European Commission President Ursula Von de Leyen in Brussels in what could be the crunch moment for Bresit talks, Lady Ritchie said she welcomed the government’s abandonment yesterday of controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill. Amendments will be brought forward by the UK government today to that effect in the House of Lords. This will mean that we will hopefully see the full implementation of the Ireland/N Ireland Protocol.
“This is a positive move – a decision in principle, but it doesn’t change the fact that we could still end up with a no deal Brexit – something that is dreaded by everyone in Northern Ireland,” she added.
“Our businesses desperately need clarity. They still don’t know what is going to happen on January 1 and how easy it is going to be to bring goods in and out of Northern Ireland.
“It is vitally important that the British Prime Minister sees sense and agrees to a zero tariff free trade agreement, along with an implementation period and arrangements that will ensure there are no customs frictions with GB-NI trade.
“We simply cannot afford to have lorries stacked up at our ports, especially where goods with a limited shelf life are concerned. Northern Ireland’s economy depends on the free flow of trade. To have anything else is unthinkable.
“Boris Johnson and his Tory colleagues should remember that like Scotland and London, Northern Ireland did not vote for Brexit. We wanted to stay in the EU and now we are being forced to watch this grisly pantomime play out in front of us.”
Ms Ritchie continued: “While the British Prime Minister and the President of the Commission endure dinner tonight in Brussels, we can only press our noses against the window and look on helplessly, our future in their hands.
“Mr Johnson was elected as Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom. That includes Northern Ireland and its unique constitutional arrangements, which are designed to bring peace and prosperity to the whole of our island.
“He has a deep and solemn responsibility to protect that Good Friday Agreement settlement plus the Protocol, and to ensure that the economic, social and political stability we now enjoy continues.
“I urge him to remember that in the coming hours and days.”