16/01/2019

NI Parties Divided On Best Way Ahead Following Meaningful Vote

Northern Ireland's political parties are divided on the best course of action following the crushing defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Leaders of the Alliance and Green parties have demanded a People's Vote, while the Unionist representatives are urging Government to advocate for an amended divorce agreement with better terms.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long MLA said now is the time for a People's Vote after the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected by 230 votes.

"What is surprising is the margin of the defeat suffered by the Government. However, that should not cloud the fact those who rejected the deal did so for vastly different reasons," the east Belfast MLA said.

"Alliance has always been clear there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit. The process has been defined by a flawed concept, incompatible red-lines, unrealistic expectations and imaginary solutions. Even today, 30 months on, there is still no clarity on what the UK wants in terms of Brexit.

"Parliament last week rejected a no deal Brexit, recognising it would be disaster for the UK, and a catastrophe for Northern Ireland.

"Now they have rejected the Withdrawal Agreement, despite the fact any negotiated Brexit will require a Withdrawal Agreement, including an open-ended, all weather backstop. This reality cannot be escaped or avoided. They have also comprehensively failed to offer any single alternative which commands a majority."

Mrs Long added that the only coherent way forward is to revert to democracy to unravel the ongoing deadlock.

"The people of the UK must have their right to have their say."

Green Party leader Clare Bailey MLA also spoke out in support of that course of action, commenting that the option to remain must be considered as part of any People's Vote.

"The conditions under which the UK will leave the European Union have been set out and the final say must sit with the people.

"We know that the Leave campaign broke electoral law, we know that reaping an additional £350m for the NHS was a fiction and we know that the deal on the table is opposed by MPs.
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"The majority of people across Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and the polls tell us that most people would swing to remain if a vote happened tomorrow."

Clare Bailey MLA concluded: "The Tories and Labour Party are hopelessly divided and there is no consensus on a way forward, a People’s Vote can push through the parliamentary impasse."

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist party is urging the Conservatives to "recalibrate its negotiating position" and seek an extension to Article 50.

Party leader Robin Swann condemned the Prime Minister for attempting to manipulate the vote between "a bad deal and no deal", resulting in the inevitable rejection of the proposal.

"The debate has clearly shown that there is no desire amongst the majority of MPs for a no deal Brexit.

"The EU's claims that they want to defend the Belfast Agreement must now be backed up by actions that reflect their responsibility. The backstop needs dealt with and they know it. If they continue with their present intransigence, everyone will end up in a place where no-one wants to go.

"We want the right deal for the country, a sensible deal which creates a positive trading relationship with the EU in the future which doesn't undermine the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom or the principle of consent which is at the heart of the Belfast Agreement."

The DUP, who voted against the deal has urged Parliament to use the defeat to secure a better deal for the UK.

Their leader Arlene Foster said that the House of Commons had sent an "unmistakable message" to the Prime Minister and the European Union that the proposed divorce agreement was not acceptable.

"Mrs May will now be able to demonstrate to the Brussels' negotiators that changes are required if any deal is to command the support of Parliament.

"We will work with the Government constructively to achieve a better deal. That is our focus. Whilst some may wish to use this defeat to boost their political ambitions, we will give the Government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal.

"Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough. The Prime Minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.

"We want an orderly exit from the European Union with a sensible deal which works for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."



(JG/CM)

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