The region cannot be isolated from the Single Market, Colum Eastwood warned
Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, has called on the UK government to allow Northern Ireland ‘to retain the shelter of the European Union’ through a special status arrangement, which would likely involve some form of enhanced access to the single market.
He accused the government, whether through amnesia or ignorance, of undermining ‘the totality of relationships across these islands.’
Speaking at Westminster yesterday, Eastwood said:
“At Prime Minister’s questions today, we were once again subjected to Theresa May’s meaningless mantras on withdrawal from the European Union. She once again said that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and suggested there would be ‘no return to the borders of the past’ in Ireland. Unfortunately, she once again declined to detail what the border of the future will look like.
The British Prime Minister also said that Northern Ireland’s future will be decided peacefully and by consent. She may not have noticed but the people of Northern Ireland have not and will not consent to being forced out of the European Union.
That’s why I’m in London today alongside our Ambassador to the UK Dan Mulhall spelling out the effect of Brexit on Ireland.
Despite the rose tinted glasses the British Government, and their cheerleaders in the DUP, are wearing, it is communities in Northern Ireland that will be worst affected by withdrawal from Europe.
As the pound plummets, the spending power of people living along the border hangs on a cliff edge. When inflation bites, we’ll see sharp rises in prices for food and fuel. And when GDP falls, as the Treasury predicts, our block grant will be savaged leaving vital public services under resourced.
The British Government has lost its institutional memory. They have shown no understanding, and worse no care, that their isolationist approach to Europe risks undermining the totality of relationships on these islands, as Albert Reynolds and John Major once put it.
Their amnesia or ignorance continues to wield an axe of simplicity into the layered complexities of the Irish political dispensation.
Standing in Westminster in 2014, President Michael D Higgins spoke of how ‘the shadow of the past has become the shelter of the present’. I am deeply worried that Brexit has once more cast a shadow across these islands. Judging by the meeting with the devolved administrations on Monday, Theresa May appears to be saying ‘where we go, you must follow’.
In response, my message today is this. Instead of recasting shadow over Northern Ireland by ignoring our democratic wishes, Mrs May should yield to the understanding that we must be allowed to retain the shelter of the European Union.”