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Limited sharing of Brexit information shows UK 'total indifference to Northern Ireland'

Chris Hazzard
Chris Hazzard

Civil Servants in London giving their Northern Ireland counterparts a "limited visibility" of critical information on preparing for Brexit demonstrates the British Government's "total indifference" toward the region, an MP has said.

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The BBC obtained an internal document circulated among the Northern Ireland departments back in June 2018.

It was only released to the broadcaster on an appeal to the Information Commissioner. It was initially withheld, officials said because it was felt disclosure would "weaken or inhibit" their negotiating position and given Brexit was still "live issue" it needed to be considered internally "freely and frankly".

The Brexit Gateway Review was compiled by experts in the Department of Finance and assessed the Brexit preparations carried out by the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development (DAERA) - a key department in terms of cross-border trading in agriculture.

It recommended a need for "clear tactical and operational focus" to prepare for the UK's departure from the EU from day one as well as a need to identify potential gaps that needed to be addressed.

It suggested communication between the department in Northern Ireland and officials in London was not adequate.

"Northern Ireland officials have limited visibility of Brexit information even in areas that are critical to Northern Ireland interests," the review said.

It went on to say as the original March Brexit deadline approached communication improved.

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said the revelations showed "the total lack of concern in London regarding the impact on people here".

“Despite the fact that the north will be hardest hit by this disastrous policy, we continue to see London’s total indifference and disregard for the consequences of Brexit in Ireland.

“We are being driven toward a disastrous no deal Brexit. In that eventuality the British Government needs to act in line with the Good Friday Agreement and announce a referendum to give people the option of remaining in the EU through Irish reunification.”

A DAERA spokesman said it had an "excellent working relationship" with its colleagues in London.

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