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Trimble dismisses Hain's call for Northern Ireland to be in single market with Republic

Former NI Secretary says there should be customs union and single market across island

Former UUP leader Lord Trimble has dismissed a suggestion from Lord Peter Hain that Northern Ireland should be part of the same customs union and single market as the Republic after Brexit.

Former Secretary of State Hain is to given a speech in the Lords on Tuesday warning against the risk of the Irish border becoming another bargaining chip in negotiations with Brussels.

The former first minister Trimble said Hain was "flying a kite, and a kite that will be downed".

He told the BBC: "Even if it was possible, it is not in our interests because it runs counter to the balance of where our trade is and where our economy is organised.

"We are part of the United Kingdom and that is where bulk of the goods of manufacturing go. Going into an area where we have less trade doesn't make sense.

"Plus it is not possible under the EU rules."

He also again restated that the Assembly should return and operate in the absence of an Executive given the ongoing political stalemate, saying the Welsh Assembly acted in a similar fashion for years.

Peter Hain was Northern Ireland Secretary under Labour from 2005-2007, helping steer the peace process when the IRA was decommissioning weapons and Stormont devolution was being restored. He is planning to say: "What is proposed is not a Brexit for the United Kingdom, nor even for Britain.

"It is a Brexit for the ideological hard right and we go down that path at our great peril, especially for Northern Ireland and the hard-won peace and democratic process which, tragically, this Government seems so airily casual about and so ignorantly indifferent to."

The UK's only land border with an EU state after Brexit will be between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

UUP chairman, Lord Empey, said Mir Hain's idea amounted to "the partition of the UK".

“Unionists will never agree to a border up the middle of the Irish sea, which would be the outworking of Lord Hain's proposal," said Lord Empey.

“85% of Northern Ireland's trade is not with the Irish Republic. Over 60% is with Great Britain. Why on earth would we agree to cut ourselves off from the mainland to protect 15% of our business and put 85% of it at risk? It is simply nonsensical," he said.

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