Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson in Northern Ireland: SDLP, UUP and Alliance on PM meeting

SDLP calls for joint authority, UUP repeats backstop rejection and Alliance question if PM has plan

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon and Colin McGrath speak with the media outside Stormont House. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon and Colin McGrath speak with the media outside Stormont House. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon has said joint authority must be implemented in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The north Belfast MLA made the comments following her party's meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Stormont.

Joint authority would see Northern Ireland governed by both London and Dublin.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that, while he hopes for a Brexit deal with the EU, he is willing to crash out without a deal if one cannot be reached by October 31.

Nichola Mallon said it is "very clear" the Mr Johnson's administration intends to pursue a no-deal Brexit "that will damage communities, businesses and the delicate balance of political relationships on this island".

"If there is no deal in the current round of talks and a no-deal Brexit on 31st October, there will be no protection for people in Northern Ireland from the severe shock that follows," she said.

"It is unacceptable to us that Boris Johnson, at the whip hand of the DUP, would take control of government in Northern Ireland in those circumstances.

"If devolved government cannot be restored, if a deal on Brexit cannot be reached, the only model that sustains the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is Joint Authority or Administration.

"The two traditions that share this island working together in our common interest. That cannot be served by British-only direct rule.

"Given the fact that the British Government and Irish Government are full co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, there must be an enhanced role for the Irish Government."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said his party pressed the PM on his plans to remove the controversial backstop mechanism from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

“We raised our concerns about the backstop and are glad the Prime Minister agrees with us on how undemocratic its implementation would be," he said.

"However, his opposition to it is well versed now – we need to hear from the UK Government what their plans are to see it removed.  We also underlined our opposition to leaving the European Union without a deal.

"The UK Government has said that no-deal planning is being ramped up. It is important that the people of the region that stands to be most affected see the detail of what this is."

He also said he raised the issue of the "immense pressure" that Northern Ireland's manufacturing industry is under, in particular the under-threat Harland and Wolff shipyard and the Wrightbus factory.

"The Prime Minister has previously been a supporter of industry in Northern Ireland.  He cannot let the factories and shipyard close on his watch," he added.

Brexit was also the topic of conversation between Alliance leader Naomi Long and Boris Johnson.

Mrs Long said it is up to the PM to come up with plan to avoid a no-deal exit from the EU.

"Certainly, I left today’s meeting unaware if the Prime Minister has a plan but if he does, he certainly disguises it well," she said.

"We made it absolutely clear the catastrophic impact a no-deal Brexit in particular would have in devastating businesses especially. I hope that hit the mark and he understands how serious this situation is.

"Brexit is not the only cause for the lack of an Assembly but it is adding massively to the chaos preventing that. The Prime Minister was told in no certain terms he needs a plan to tackle this and needs one fast.

"By doing that, we can perhaps get a period of stability and try to get devolution restored."

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