Four ‘remain’ Stormont parties issue joint Brexit statement

Northern secretary Karen Bradley promises to seek best Brexit deal for the North

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley in Armagh meeting businesses about Brexit. Photograph: Michael McHugh/PA

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley in Armagh meeting businesses about Brexit. Photograph: Michael McHugh/PA

 

Four Stormont parties which backed remain in the EU membership referendum have issued a joint statement on Brexit ahead of the bloc’s upcoming talks about the UK’s withdrawal.

The statement calling for the North to remain in the single market and customs union has been agreed and signed by Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Alliance leader Naomi Long and Green Party leader Steven Agnew.

The statement has been timed for now as “this week sees us entering into another crucial stage in the Brexit negotiations”, and “time is of the essence as we approach the European Council meeting next month”.

In the June 2016 Brexit referendum while the UK voted to leave by 52 per cent to 48 per cent, Northern Ireland voted to remain by a majority of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

Meanwhile, Northern secretary Karen Bradley has promised to seek the best Brexit deal for the North after meetings with businesses about the Border. She visited a cement factory in Co Fermanagh, and met the chief executives of local authorities which adjoin the Border.

Customs checks

On Sunday, the UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis and business secretary Greg Clark joined her in Belfast for meetings with 14 organisations as they explored a technological solution to cross-Border trade to minimise the need for any customs checks.

Ms Bradley said: “The thing I need to do is get on and do the job to make sure that we get the right Brexit, the right deal for the people of Northern Ireland, and that we continue to build on the United Kingdom and all that we do as a united country.”

British prime minister Theresa May has split her ministers into two teams as they work towards a reconciliation on how to manage arrangements with the EU after the exit. Ms Bradley, Mr Davis and Mr Clark are part of a group considering “maximum facilitation”, a solution based on using technology to minimise the need for customs checks after Brexit.

Maximum facilitation

Ms Bradley said: “This is really so that I can test how maximum facilitation could be made to work, and whether it can be made to work for Northern Ireland.”

Another group established by Mrs May, featuring Brexiteers Liam Fox and Michael Gove and Remain-backing Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, is considering a “customs partnership” whereby the UK would collect tariffs on behalf of the EU without the need for new Border checks.