Northern Secretary’s briefing notes sent to media in blunder

Document distributed in error has notes on Brexit, abortion and other contentious issues

 Northern Secretary Karen Bradley arrives for a Cabinet meeting chaired by British prime minister Theresa May at No 10 Downing Street earlier this month in London. File photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley arrives for a Cabinet meeting chaired by British prime minister Theresa May at No 10 Downing Street earlier this month in London. File photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

 

The Northern Ireland Office has issued a press notice to journalists which included the Secretary of State’s briefing notes on a range of key issues including Brexit and abortion, and legacy and economic issues.

The document, sent to outlets on Sunday night about a media opportunity with Karen Bradley on Monday, outlined the British government’s position on a number of key issues impacting on the North.

On abortion, the document said: “Our key priority is to redouble our efforts to restore power-sharing, so that the people of Northern Ireland can decide what is right for Northern Ireland, rather than Westminster speaking on their behalf.”

On what the government intended to do to recognise the fact that Northern Ireland will soon have the most restrictive abortion law in the UK or Ireland, it noted a commitment to restoring Stormont and that it provided the option for women to travel to England for a free abortion.

‘Appropriate balance’

“We believe this approach strikes an appropriate balance between the devolved position of abortion in Northern Ireland, and allowing women normally resident in Northern Ireland to have access to abortion services in England within the bounds of the law.”

On Brexit, the notes said the British government wanted to get to the future relationship with the EU as quickly as possible – in terms of both the economic and security partnership.

“In our view, we need to address the border through discussions on our future trading relationship with the EU – that’s why we’re keen to get on with discussing the future.”

On the UK’s future economic partnership with the EU, it is seeking “the broadest and deepest possible agreement that covers more sectors and co-operates more fully than any other Free Trade Agreement”.

On “accusations that PM [Theresa May] was wrong and the legacy system is balanced” the briefing notes said: “The point the prime minister was making was that we want to see all outstanding deaths in Northern Ireland investigated in a fair, balanced and proportionate way to ensure the system does not focus disproportionately on the security forces.”

The Irish Times asked the NIO to comment on the inclusion of Ms Bradley’s briefing notes in the document.

An email sent to media afterwards said: “Please disregard previous email which was sent in error – the contents of which should not be used.”