As October 31 draws closer, Northern Ireland’s political leaders have laid out their demands for an orderly Brexit with new Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Political leaders have urged the UK premier to avoid a no-deal crash out, while some are calling for the implementation of direct rule if devolution cannot be restored.
The SDLP has urged Mr Johnson to avoid a no deal Brexit and prioritise the restoration of devolved government, while also warning that he cannot take Northern Ireland off the cliff edge through direct rule.
It comes after the Conservative leader confirmed the UK will leave the EU come what may, with or without a deal.
SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon said: “It is very clear from the rhetoric of Boris Johnson’s new British administration that he intends to pursue a no-deal Brexit that will damage communities, businesses and the delicate balance of political relationships on this island.”
The north Belfast MLA said her fears that the Prime Minister has little understanding of the region’s complex and fragile relationships were confirmed, and called for a joint authority administration in the event devolved government can’t be restored and a Brexit deal cannot be reached.
“The two traditions that share this island working together in our common interest,” Ms Mallon said. “That cannot be served by British-only direct rule. Given the fact that the British Government and Irish Government are full co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, there must be an enhanced role for the Irish Government.”
Sinn Fein called for backstop protections and the avoidance of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, while Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann also expressed his party’s opposition to leaving the EU without a deal.
However, the UUP raised concerns about the controversial backstop and urged Mr Johnson to implement direct rule if a deal cannot be achieved.
Meanwhile, Alliance Leader Naomi Long told the Prime Minister that the Brexit chaos is stopping the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, as he called for an increased engagement between parties in the political talks process.
Ms Long also expressed doubt over Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans. She said: “It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to come up with such a plan and do so quickly, given how close we are to the cliff edge of a no deal Brexit. Certainly, I left today’s meeting unaware if the Prime Minister has a plan but if he does, he certainly disguises it well.
“We made it absolutely clear the catastrophic impact a no deal Brexit in particular would have in devastating businesses especially. I hope that hit the mark and he understands how serious this situation is.
“Brexit is not the only cause for the lack of an Assembly but it is adding massively to the chaos preventing that. The Prime Minister was told in no certain terms he needs a plan to tackle this and needs one fast. By doing that, we can perhaps get a period of stability and try to get devolution restored.”
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