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'The deal is not a threat to integrity of the Union'

The full text of Karen Bradley's open letter

Over the past fortnight, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet have been working hard to explain the benefits of the deal we have struck to leave the European Union.

At the beginning of this period, the Prime Minister wrote a letter to the whole of the United Kingdom.

As the day of the meaningful vote in Parliament approaches, I wanted to emphasise what the deal means specifically for the people of Northern Ireland.

In her letter, the Prime Minister explained why the deal with the EU delivers on the result of the referendum for the entire United Kingdom.

She set out how it puts us on course for a prosperous future while maintaining our close relationship with our friends and neighbours in the EU.

As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I want to set out my support for this deal and how it delivers for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

After a long and complex negotiation process, this deal delivers on important issues such as protecting the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, protecting vital jobs and investments, leaving both the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, and taking back control of our borders, money, and laws.

This deal delivers for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, which sets out the Northern Ireland element of the deal, has some important guarantees for the people in Northern Ireland.

It guarantees that even in the unlikely event that the UK's future relationship with the EU is not in place by the end of the implementation period in December 2020, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

At the same time the protocol also contains legally binding commitments that both the UK and EU will take the necessary steps to ensure the backstop is temporary.

Importantly, the agreement upholds the Belfast Agreement in all its parts, including the consent principle over Northern Ireland's place within our Union.

It ensures people and businesses that rely on an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can continue living their lives and operating as they do now.

It is not a threat to the integrity of the Union, or a threat to the rights people enjoy today.

In short, we have secured an outcome for Northern Ireland that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland and a customs border down the Irish Sea.

The deal avoids Northern Ireland being in a separate customs territory to the rest of the UK, something that the EU had originally sought to impose. Instead, it achieves the maintenance of a single UK customs territory. Outside the EU we will be able to strike new trade deals around the world and open up new markets in the world's fastest growing economies.

In line with the clear commitments we made in the December Joint Report, the UK would ensure unfettered access for NI businesses to the whole UK internal market.

The deal protects all the things we value. For all the people in Northern Ireland, this means continuing the progress over the past two decades under the Belfast Agreement, supporting our business community to thrive, ensuring a good deal for our agricultural and fishing industries and providing a safe, secure and prosperous society for future generations.

Like the Prime Minister, I have been campaigning tirelessly to support and help deliver this deal.

Now is the time to come together to build a brighter future for Northern Ireland.

Yours ever,

Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP

Belfast Telegraph

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