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Hermon defies critics after voting against Bill, saying Brexit 'will be bad' for future of country

By Noel McAdam

Lady Sylvia Hermon has defended her decision to vote against the legislation allowing the Government to trigger Brexit negotiations.

The North Down MP told the Belfast Telegraph she believes Brexit "will be bad" for the United Kingdom.

And she revealed she personally voted to remain in the Referendum last June.

Last night she voted with the three SDLP MPs to oppose the move and against both the DUP and Ulster Unionists.

But the Independent MP denied she was attempting to thwart the UK majority vote in favour of withdrawal from the EU.

"A clear majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for the UK to remain in the EU," she said.

"And a majority in my North Down constituency voted in favour of remain. I voted to remain, as I do not believe Brexit will be good for the country."

Lady Hermon went on: "I haven't changed my mind. So I voted against the Bill to trigger the Article 50 process."

She came under fire from the DUP who argued she should respect the will of the majority across the UK as a whole.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said: "I would have thought that as a unionist the Honourable Lady would respect the fact that this was a UK referendum and therefore the outcome had to be judged on a UK basis.

"It would be detrimental to the Union if Northern Ireland - or Scotland or Wales - had the right to say to the people of the whole of the United Kingdom, 'We don't care how you voted, the 1.8 million people in Northern Ireland have a right to veto how the rest of the people in the United Kingdom expressed their view'."

During the two-day House of Commons debate Mrs Hermon asked how the DUP intended to reflect the majority verdict against leaving in NI and denied attempting to thwart the will of the people.

Conservative MP Sheryll Murray, of South East Cornwall, said she had the impression that some like Lady Hermon "are trying to frustrate the clear will of the House and, more importantly, the people".

Lady Hermon replied: "I am not - I emphasise I am not - trying to frustrate the will of the people of the United Kingdom. I am a unionist. I am trying to keep the United Kingdom together.

"This House needs to be aware and sensitive to the fact that Sinn Fein, the republican party with four absentee Members of this House, is using the Brexit decision to campaign for an increased vote in the Assembly election. That is my reason for voting against the Bill. It has nothing to do with breaking up the Union; I want to maintain the Union."

She then asked how the DUP planned to respect the fact that a clear majority in Northern Ireland oppose leaving the EU in the party's negotiations with Brexit Secretary David Davis.

DUP MPs Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell voted against the majority wishes of their respective constituencies - East Londonderry where 52% voted to remain and North Belfast where the remain vote was 50.4%.

A DUP spokesman said: "North Belfast and East Londonderry were slim remain majorities, although the very clear majority of unionists in both constituencies voted to leave."

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott also defied the majority in his Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency, who opted by 58.6% for remain, to vote for the Brexit legislation.

A UUP spokesman said both Mr Elliott and South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan had voted in favour of the Brexit Bill because "that's the clear will of the people of the United Kingdom".

All three SDLP MPs - Mark Durkan, Margaret Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell - reflected the views of their respective constituencies by voting against the Bill.

In line with their abstentionist policy, Sinn Fein's four MPs were not present for the debate or vote.

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