Giving the Assembly a ‘double majority’ veto on whether Northern Ireland remains in the backstop would just add more divisions to the already fragile institutions, Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said.
Dr Farry was speaking after reports the EU have suggested the mechanism for the removal of the backstop, provided a majority of unionists and majority of nationalists in the Assembly back the move. The North Down MLA said such a device would also effectively ignore the growing number of people in the community who designate as neither.
“Alliance’s preference is for Northern Ireland and indeed the wider UK to remain with the EU. However, if Brexit has to happen, Northern Ireland needs to have special arrangements to protect our unique circumstances.
“But while these reports are not necessarily true, effectively giving a veto to either unionists or nationalists over that is unacceptable. Any issues of consent by the Assembly will be inherently loaded, based upon what is the assigned status quo and turned into a de facto debate on the constitutional question, instead of addressing the point.
“Therefore we will see a new layer of tension and division injected into an already fragile and often dysfunctional Assembly, when such existential questions about special arrangements should be a matter for the UK Government and the EU. Further, the business community here in particular would be left without certainty, making it more difficult for them to operate.
“In addition, given the structures of the Assembly at present, any such votes will effectively ignore those who do not designate as either unionist or nationalist. If this past May’s elections and the Alliance surge is evidence of anything, it’s more people than ever are deciding they are neither. That old narrative needs to change and people from that part of our community need to have their voice heard as well.”