Brexit has "breathed new life into Northern Ireland's crisis-ridden political system" and has been a catalyst for people voting outside traditional party lines, a Brexit Party MEP has said.
North West England MEP Claire Fox, speaking on a visit to Dublin, said that the UK's decision to leave the EU had been "disruptive in a positive sense" for Northern Irish politics.
In an address to the Institute of International and European Affairs think tank, Ms Fox said that despite warnings about Brexit undermining the Northern Irish peace process and reigniting political violence, it was actually changing Northern Ireland’s electoral geography.
"Brexit has acted as a catalyst encouraging more people to think and vote outside of traditional party loyalties," said Ms Fox, who was elected to the European Parliament last year.
“In other words, I think a lot of the consequences of Brexit are a good thing, because I think that the status quo, as it was, and the political status quo, as it was, was not good enough.”
Ms Fox later said she was referring to the increase in vote for the centrist Alliance Party and the decline of the DUP in December's general election as "some positive aspects" of Brexit rather than "scare-mongering" about the impact of UK's exit on Northern Ireland.
The Brexit Party MEP criticised European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for warning British prime minister Boris Johnson that his deadline of December 31st, 2020, would not provide sufficient time to negotiate a future trade partnership between the EU and the UK.
“It starts to feel as though they’re trying to dictate the terms already. I would have thought it might have been more politic as it were to shut up, at least start [the trade talks] and see,” she said.
“And I think actually if anything it kind of just reinforces a sense of the EU not accepting the decision and people feel slightly resentful at that.”
Ms Fox said the more Ms von der Leyen says this, the “more unhelpful” it would be for Mr Johnson because if he has to ask for an extension, it would look as if he is having to “kowtow to what the EU says.”
The MEP, whose parents came from Co Dublin and Co Tipperary, dismissed the view of Brexit being a “far-right phenomenon” and “even a return to the 1930s” as a “caricature, unfair and wrong”.
She portrayed the decision to leave the EU as an anti-establishment vote by ordinary people “demanding a reckoning with the political system and confronting a technocratic style of politics”.
“Brexit has changed everything in British politics – it has blown open a cosy, zombie-like closed world of Westminster parliamentary politics. It has broken open the traditional line between left and right, which was already an exhausted tradition.”