Naomi Long calls for referendum on future UK Brexit deal

Alliance leader says it would be ‘reckless’ to hold Border poll on united Ireland

The Alliance leader Naomi Long has called for Britain and Northern Ireland to remain within the European Union if a referendum on a Brexit deal were rejected by people in the UK.

Ms Long, launching the party's manifesto in east Belfast on Wednesday, said a referendum on any Brexit deal should take place – and in addition were that deal rejected Britain and Northern Ireland should remain within the EU.

The Alliance leader said she wasn’t putting much store by recent polls which indicated the possibility of a hung British parliament but were such a hung parliament to come about, any British prime minister would “struggle mightily” to get a Brexit deal passed.

On Sinn Féin and SDLP calls for a referendum on Irish unity, Ms Long said there was no evidence a Border poll would be successful which, she added, was required under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

As the North faced into a “period of uncertainty” caused by Brexit and the political deadlock, she felt “it would be reckless now for us to engage in further destabilisation by having a Border poll”.

“When there is evidence on the ground that a majority of people want to change the constitutional position of Northern Ireland then there should be a Border poll, not sooner, not later,” she added.

‘Layer of chaos’

“To actually raise it now is causing difficulties in terms of businesses – in terms of foreign direct investment – who are already nervous about coming to Northern Ireland and about expanding their business here because they don’t know what the future will hold. To add another layer of chaos on top of that I think is utterly reckless.”

Ms Long said the Westminster election offered a real opportunity for Alliance to win two seats in the House of Commons. Alliance is standing candidates in all 18 constituencies but has particularly targeted East Belfast and South Belfast.

She said she could regain East Belfast which she lost to the DUP's Gavin Robinson two years ago and that colleague Paula Bradshaw could take South Belfast from outgoing SDLP MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell.

Electing two MPs, she said, would help “society move away from the politics of division and towards politics which celebrated diversity and offered hope”.

“[People] realise that if they continue to vote for the same parties with the same message they will get the same outcomes. And that is political failure. What we need to do now is to change direction, to elect people who are willing to govern, who are willing to do the job they were elected to do,” said Ms Long.

ALLIANCE MANIFESTO MAIN POINTS

* Opposing “hard” Brexit

* Holding a referendum on outcome of Brexit negotiations

* UK to remain in EU if Brexit deal is rejected by referendum

* Restoring Northern Executive and Assembly

* Dealing with legacy of the Troubles

* Introducing same-sex marriage

* Promoting integrated society and education

* Requiring parties to disclose political donations and

* Creating jobs and improving public services.