Northern Secretary sticks by Theresa May and draft deal

Business leaders in Belfast tell Karen Bradley ‘any deal is better than no deal’

Karen Bradley speaks during a press conference at the Grand Central Hotel after meeting  business leaders to discuss the draft Brexit deal.  Photograph:  David Young/PA Wire

Karen Bradley speaks during a press conference at the Grand Central Hotel after meeting business leaders to discuss the draft Brexit deal. Photograph: David Young/PA Wire

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Northern Secretary Karen Bradley has called on politicians to apply “cool heads” and support the draft Brexit deal in the UK’s “national interest”.

Ms Bradley, after meeting a number of Northern Ireland business leaders in Belfast on Thursday evening, also expressed strong support for the British prime minister Theresa May.

“I support the prime minister – there is no better person to do this job. I supported her leadership in 2016 because this is a woman who gets the job done, this is a woman who has gone out and negotiated hard,” she said.

Ms Bradley, after hearing business leaders tell her “any deal is better than no deal”, rejected claims that the Brexit agreement was dead and that Northern Ireland had been sold out.

“People need to understand this is the deal on the table; this is the deal that the 27 member states are prepared to sign up to,” she said.

“Northern Ireland will not be in the Single Market, it will not be in the Customs Union, it will be leaving along with the whole of the United Kingdom on March 29th next year.”

Ms Bradley expressed satisfaction with her meeting with some 20 business leaders who are members of Northern Ireland’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representing companies and big employers such as Allstate Northern Ireland; Diageo; Asda; BT; SSE Airtricity; Dale Farm; and Danske Bank.

She said: “It’s very clear from the conversations that I have just had that actually what businesses and people in Northern Ireland want is politicians to come together and do the right thing, think about the national interest and support the deal so we can leave the European Union on March 29th next year in a measured, organised, co-ordinated way that is right for the United Kingdom and the people of Northern Ireland.”

Role to play

She believed the people of Northern Ireland had an important part to play in persuading parties such as the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party that the draft Brexit deal was better than no deal.

“I think the people of Northern Ireland, when they see that this is a good deal for the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, should tell all their politicians exactly that,” she said.

After the meeting, John Healy, vice-president of the Northern Ireland Chamber, said: “It is clear that businesses recognise the huge efforts made by the prime minister and across government to reach this milestone.”

Mr Healy, who is managing director of Allstate Northern Ireland, the American insurance company that employs 2,300 people in the North, added: “It is NI Chamber’s opinion that any deal is better than no deal for business.”

He said the chamber would study the proposed deal carefully. “With people’s livelihoods and the future prospects for many companies in the balance, more time is required to deliberate the real-world implications of this agreement over the coming days.”

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