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Brexit begins: Northern Ireland reaction as Article 50 triggered

 

Brexit: Formal process for UK's departure from European Union begins [Photos] Close

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

AFP/Getty Images

Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of European Council president Donald Tusk after the letter informing the European Council of Britain's intention to leave the European Union was handed over to Mr Tusk in Brussels.

Screen grabbed image taken from the Twitter feed of European Council president Donald Tusk after the letter informing the European Council of Britain's intention to leave the European Union was handed over to Mr Tusk in Brussels.

PA

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

AP

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PA Wire

PA

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. Pic: PA Wire

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. Pic: PA Wire

PA

A picture taken on March 29, 2017 shows British flags at the UK representation to the European Union in Brussels. 
Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow will deliver to Brussels today the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

A picture taken on March 29, 2017 shows British flags at the UK representation to the European Union in Brussels. Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow will deliver to Brussels today the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's permanent representative in Brussels arrives at his office at the UK permanent representation to the EU in Brussels Wednesday March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty later Wednesday which will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's permanent representative in Brussels arrives at his office at the UK permanent representation to the EU in Brussels Wednesday March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty later Wednesday which will begin divorce proceedings from the European Union, starting the clock on two years of intense political and economic negotiations that will fundamentally change both the nation and its European neighbors. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

AP

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, carries a briefcase as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, carries a briefcase as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

AP

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Tim Barrow, the UK Permanent Representative to the EU, arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May has signed a letter invoking Article 50 of the bloc's key treaty, the formal start of exit negotiations. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

AP

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow leaves the UK representation to the EU Tim Barrow in Brussels on March 29, 2017. 
Tim Barrow will deliver to European Council President Donald Tusk the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit.  / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow leaves the UK representation to the EU Tim Barrow in Brussels on March 29, 2017. Tim Barrow will deliver to European Council President Donald Tusk the letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May that will launch Brexit. / AFP PHOTO / Aurore BelotAURORE BELOT/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

People from Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit  in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

People from Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

A giant headed Theresa May in Parliament Square, London during a protest by Avaaz after PM signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA

(left to right) MPs: Nicky Morgan, Nick Clegg and Chris Leslie join members of Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50  that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

(left to right) MPs: Nicky Morgan, Nick Clegg and Chris Leslie join members of Open Britain, which campaigns for a soft Brexit in Parliament Square, London after the Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter to trigger Article 50 that starts the formal exit process by the UK from the European Union. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday March 29, 2017. Photo credit should read: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire

PA

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: British Prime Minister Theresa May departs 10 Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take the United Kingdom out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester holds the flag of Europe during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester holds the flag of Europe during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Protesters hold flags of Europe and placards during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Protesters hold flags of Europe and placards during a demonstration outside of Downing Street on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  A protester wears a European Union flag as she takes part in a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A protester wears a European Union flag as she takes part in a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  A pro-EU protester carries a placard during a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: A pro-EU protester carries a placard during a demonstration near parliament on March 29, 2017 in London, England. Later today British Prime Minister Theresa May will address the Houses of Parliament as Article 50 is triggered and the process that will take Britain out of the European Union will begin. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Getty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to the Houses of Parliament to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions. Pic: PA wire

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to the Houses of Parliament to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions. Pic: PA wire

AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signs the Article 50 letter, as she prepares to trigger the start of the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet signs the Article 50 letter, as she prepares to trigger the start of the UK's formal withdrawal from the EU on Wednesday.

Britain's ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow delivers British Prime Minister Theresa May's formal notice of the UK's intention to leave the bloc under Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels on March 29, 2017.

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill has said the party is "building momentum" to ensure designated special status within the EU as the Brexit process has been triggered.

Theresa May has signed the letter that formally begins the UK's departure from the European Union.

The Prime Minister has sent the eight-page document to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council by courier to Brussels formally triggering Article 50.

The majority of voters in Northern Ireland backed Remain - 56% to 44%.

Speaking on Wednesday Michelle O'Neill said: "The Tory government don't have mandate here and they are dragging people of the north out of the EU against the democratically expressed wishes in a democratic vote.

"So we continue to make the case for special status.

"We are on the diplomatic offensive in Europe, using our MLAs, MPs, MEPs and making sure we are engaging with all those relevant in terms of negotiations - because the British Government won't dictate the terms it'll be the open member states.

At Stormont around 300 anti-Brexit protesters marched on Parliament Buildings.

"Clearly the Irish Government have a strong role and a strong negotiating role in terms of what will happen in weeks months and years ahead.

"Clearly we need to see special status and we are building momentum and that argument is resonating across Europe, we need to do a lot more of  that and that's what we are committed to doing."

Michelle O'Neill lead fellow Sinn Fein MLAs in a protest held by Border Communities Against Brexit at Stormont on Wednesday afternoon.

Anti-Brexit protest held at Stormont [Photos] Close

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 
Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 
Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union.
Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017

Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 29th March 2017 Border Communities Against BREXIT hold a protest at Stormont on the day Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May and sees the beginning the UK's departure from the European Union. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Anti-Brexit campaigners, some dressed as customs officers hold a protest outside Stormont in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU.  Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit campaigners, some dressed as customs officers hold a protest outside Stormont in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Anti-Brexit campaigners, protest on the Stormont estate in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit campaigners, protest on the Stormont estate in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Anti-Brexit campaigners, some dressed as customs officers hold a protest outside Stormont in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit campaigners, some dressed as customs officers hold a protest outside Stormont in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Anti-Brexit campaigners dressed as customs officers, protest outside Stormont in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Anti-Brexit campaigners dressed as customs officers, protest outside Stormont in Belfast, as Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50, starting the process that will see Britain leave the EU. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

She lead around 300 anti-Brexit protesters who set up a mock customs checkpoint at the gates of the estate to highlight concerns about a hardening of the Irish border when the UK leaves the EU.

They chanted "no borders, no barriers, no Brexit" as they made their way up Stormont's landmark main avenue.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds spoke during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill has said the party will be "stepping up efforts" to ensure designated special status within the EU as the Brexit process has been triggered.

He said: "The Prime Minister has rightly been emphasising her determination to deliver for all constituent parts of the United Kingdom on this historic day.

"And whilst others are content to moan and whine we want to see that delivery happen and we are confident she will make that happen."

The Ulster Unionists campaigned for Remain but, since the result, the party has voiced support for the referendum result to be actioned.

UUP MP Danny Kinahan said: “Today as Article 50 is triggered by the Prime Minister, Sinn Fein are using Brexit as an excuse to agitate for separation from the United Kingdom.

“Instead their focus would be better placed working to ensure we achieve the best deal for all the people of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, for our farmers, our universities, our community & voluntary sector, our business community and all of society.

“This is not the time to be playing politics with the Union, or trying to create instability.

“I welcome Theresa May’s comments at Prime Minister’s Questions, that she will never be neutral on the Union, and cherishes Northern Ireland’s position within the United Kingdom.

“The United Kingdom has delivered so much for our citizens, it is vital that the people of Northern Ireland are shown how much our place within the Union is valued.

“I am glad that the Prime Minister has made that abundantly clear today.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has described the triggering of Article 50 as an "act of savagery against our democracy".

He said: “Brexit is the single greatest threat to prosperity and stability facing this island since partition. People here recognised that and voted to remain in the European Union, to remain in the single market, to continue to enjoy the benefits and protections of EU membership.

“The British government’s Brexit juggernaut is about to smash through the fragile complexities of Irish politics. But worse than that, Theresa May is planning to trigger Article 50 while we face a political crisis in the North. Dragging us out of Europe against the will of our people and while we have no Executive isn’t just an affront to the principles of devolution, it’s an act of democratic savagery.

“The ignorance of this government must be met with strength from parties here. The referendum result is a mandate to take a stand against Theresa May’s tunnel vision and defend devolution. This challenge must unite us all.”

UUP MEP Jim Nicholson warned that the "constitutional integrity" of the UK must be protected and vowed to continue working for the best deal.

He said: "This is of course only the end of the beginning, and it is vital that we engage as much as possible both with Westminster and Brussels in ensuring that we get the best deal possible. I firmly believe that a bad deal for either side would ultimately be a bad deal for both sides.

“If we end up with ‘no deal’ that would be the worst possible outcome for everyone. Trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would mean significant tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. For our agri-food and manufacturing sectors, this could be catastrophic.

He added: “The Government must also maintain a strong position regarding the constitutional integrity of the UK. We entered the European Union as one United Kingdom, and we will leave as one United Kingdom. Any measures that seek to diminish the Union, whether through internal UK borders, or by Nicola Sturgeon making yet another demand for a second referendum in Scotland - must be firmly rejected."

Meanwhile Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said there were "real concerns for the future post Brexit".

He said: "Retail is Northern Ireland’s largest sector of the economy and our members on the border and many other areas and have real concerns for the future post Brexit.

“Triggering Article 50 is the start of a huge process of economic, social and political change for Northern Ireland and it remains to be seen if this change will be positive for our local economy. Certainly leaving the Single Market and Customs Union is neither positive for our retail sector or local economy as a whole.

“Northern Ireland’s retail sector needs a lot more certainty than just a vague aspiration about ‘no return to the borders of past’. The bottom line is that Brexit should not result in any barriers in trade and free movement across the border."

Mr Roberts urged Northern Ireland's parties to "redouble" their efforts in reaching a deal to form an Executive during Brexit negotiations.

He said: “It clearly is a major problem not having an Executive in place to argue our case in these vital Brexit negotiations. We urge all the political parties to redouble their efforts to secure agreement for a new administration.

“As part of these discussions the political parties should consider establishing an Assembly Brexit Committee to scrutinise the impact of the Brexit process on Northern Ireland and to take evidence from key sectors of Civic Society."

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