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.
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"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."


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