29/03/2017

PM Signs Letter To Formally Trigger Brexit Process

Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter which will formally begin the UK's departure from the European Union (EU).

This will trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of Brexit.

Mrs May's letter has been delivered to the European Council in Brussels.

It follows June's referendum which resulted in a vote to leave the EU.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said "Brexit presents a very dangerous situation for Ireland, north and south".

He said: "This represents a major set-back for the political process, directly challenges the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement and will have dire consequences for the protections contained within it and the legislative competence of the Assembly.

"The EU has been a critical partner for peace in Ireland, providing substantial political and financial aid, which has led to greater economic and social progress on an all-island basis.

"The return to a physical or economic border on the island of Ireland is totally unacceptable.  "It is now crucial that the Irish Government acts on the Dáil motion passed in February which calls for the north to be afforded special designated status within the EU so that the whole island of Ireland can remain within the EU together.

"It is an unprecedented situation which requires an unprecedented response. That means the Taoiseach entering the forthcoming negotiations with a clear plan to defend the democratic mandate of citizens on this island and to act in Ireland's national interests. 

"Sinn Féin will support him if he pursues that path, and I am sure other parties and stakeholders will join us in that, if the government puts our national interests front and centre."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "The current British Government's Brexit juggernaut threatens to smash through the fragile complexities of the Irish political dispensation.
News Image
"Over the course of the last number of weeks, SDLP MPs and negotiators have pressed the British Government to concede that unlike any other part of these islands, we have an automatic route back into the European Union. The Principle of Consent and provisions for a Unity Referendum in the Good Friday Agreement allow people here to make the decision to join a sovereign united Ireland and, in doing so, rejoin the European Union.

"It is welcome that the Brexit Secretary has now conceded that argument.

"Brexit has shaken the tectonic plates of our constitutional landscape. People in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. The people of Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement underpinned by Europe. If that context is to be ripped apart and our political foundations thrown into flux, then the time will be right for people here to begin to explore our constitutional future."

Alliance MLA Stephen Farry said it is a sad day for the UK.

"I am convinced that Brexit will be seen as a major mistake and indeed a tragedy. In all eventualities, we will be worse off out of the European Union. The triggering of Article 50 comes in the context of huge uncertainty over what future arrangements could be and even what is in the UK's interests," he said.

"For Northern Ireland, the political, economic and financial consequences will be especially severe. Northern Ireland only works on the basis of sharing, integration and interdependence, but Brexit entails erecting barriers and division. The implications of a hard border on the island if the UK leaves the Customs Union will be very challenging.

"Alliance supports special status for Northern Ireland, or at least some form of special deal to manage our particular circumstances. To make any headway on this, as a start, we need a stable and functioning Executive and a plan. Within the current talks, Alliance is stressing the importance of agreement around a negotiating position, and has tabled a paper in that regard."

(CD/LM)

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

05 September 2014
Diane Dodds Selected For European Parliament Committee
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has been re-appointed to serve on the legislative European Parliament Committee known as the Conference of Presidents.
25 August 2010
NAMA Applauded At Stormont
There has been high-level support expressed for the work of the Irish Republic's National Asset Management Agency, (NAMA) and its impact on NI finances.
21 June 2006
Special Olympics torch arrives in Belfast
The Special Olympics Ireland torch has arrived at Stormont on the eve of the Special Olympics Ireland Games.
24 April 2006
DUP attend British-Irish Inter Parliamentary talks
The DUP are to attend a meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body today in Killarney, after boycotting the body for the past 16-years.
24 July 2002
NI aerospace industry represented at Farnborough
“Northern Ireland aerospace companies must strengthen their knowledge base and overall competitiveness with greater focus on innovation through R&D projects and technology transfer from collaboration with overseas partners,” said Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.