North Down Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said he is “not prepared to legitimise or even acquiesce in a monumental act of self-harm for the UK,” as he outlined his reasons for voting against the Prime Minister’s Brexit Deal.
Speaking after the vote, the Alliance Party’s Deputy Leader emphasised that Northern Ireland only works on the basis of sharing and interdependence, with Brexit posing particular challenges to the region, shaking the very foundations of the Good Friday Agreement.
He added: “Today, I made clear that this Brexit deal is simply not good enough. It was negotiated by the Conservative Government. They own this deal, this outcome, and all the consequences that flow from it. No one needs to be running to their rescue. I am not prepared to be a rubber stamp or to sign a blank cheque and I am not prepared to legitimise or even acquiesce in what is a monumental act of self-harm.
“The Government seems to be obsessed with some abstract and antiquated concept of sovereignty. In this modern world, we are all interdependent. We can’t maximise prosperity, address climate change, fight pandemics, and project influence around the world in splendid isolation. The notion of a Global Britain is a contradiction. The UK is retreating on the international stage, and erecting more, not less, barriers to trade. Opportunities and benefits that our citizens have taken for granted for generations are being stripped away.
“This deal is particularly poor when it comes to services. It undermines the position of the City of London, and the wider financial services sector across the UK. There is not a robust system for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The mechanisms for policing and security co-operation are inferior to what we have today.
“For Northern Ireland, Brexit itself poses significant challenges for a society and economy that only works based on sharing and interdependence. Brexit means new borders and new friction, and that creates needless tension.
We are not fans of the Protocol, but it is the product of the UK’s decisions around Brexit and the consequent need to protect the Good Friday Agreement. It does give us a degree of protection, and at least preserves some access to the European Union, but also brings its challenges.
“I am grateful for the work that has been done around the flexibilities and mitigations that have been agreed in recent weeks. Yet, it remains unclear how effective it will be in managing the situation. While Northern Ireland may have free access to both Great Britain and the EU, that only applies for goods, not services, not free movement.
“Brexit, and the approach taken by this Government, has recklessly shaken the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement. We do not know if and how things will settle in the future.
“Alliance opposed Brexit from the outset as we appreciated what we would lose, and the risks involved.
“We will continue to seek the closest possible relationship with the European Union, and lobby for further measures to ease the implementation of the special arrangements for Northern Ireland.”