Brokenshire needs to realise that the people of NI must have final say over their constitutional future
letter of the day: brexit fallout
It is hard to believe the referendum was only three weeks ago. The changes we have witnessed have left heads spinning on both sides of the House as Britain and Northern Ireland has found itself with a new Prime Minister.
On a personal level, I congratulate Theresa May, but the time for congratulating May ended last Wednesday evening. The Prime Minister will now begin renegotiating our relationship with Europe - and I intend to make sure Northern Ireland and South Down is not ignored or left behind.
As for the new Secretary of State, I hope James Brokenshire will bring to the job a firmer grasp of the Good Friday Agreement's principle of consent than seemed to be held by Theresa Villiers. Too many times Villiers described the north's support for the Agreement as support for remaining in the Union and sought to use this to justify denying the north a delineated role in negotiations with Brussels. Brokenshire must realise this is a misreading of history.
As the SDLP has always made clear, the Good Friday Agreement is founded on the principle that the people of Northern Ireland should have the final say over their own constitutional future. It is essential we have a Secretary of State that understands what it truly means.
I fear that, even with the referendum over, Sinn Fein and the DUP will try and turn our future status in the EU into another political football. However, our membership of the EU is too important to our society to let that happen.
No nationalist could ever wish to go back to the days of a hard border. Moreover, for northern unionists concerned a new special status in the EU would weaken their links with Britain, I would suggest looking beyond the north to Scotland, London and even Gibraltar, where people who feel strongly British are nonetheless calling for arrangements with the EU that fit their own unique circumstances.
MARGARET RITCHIE (SDLP)
MP for South Down