Belfast Telegraph

It is reckless to gamble with people's jobs, livelihoods and futures

By Stephen Farry

Are we are a parliamentary democracy or an elective dictatorship? People are entitled to ask that question in light of the Prime Minister's cynical, cowardly and outrageous move to seek a prorogation of Parliament for a five-week period, unprecedented in modern times.

This would be questionable at the best of times, but at this period of Brexit crisis and with the no-deal cliff edge in sight, whatever the rationale put forward, it is clearly a move by a Prime Minister who doesn't command the confidence of the House of Commons to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny and to frustrate efforts by MPs to prevent a no-deal outcome for which there is neither majority support in Parliament nor across the UK.

In the minds of its most ideological advocates, Brexit was about taking back control and protecting Parliamentary sovereignty, not that democratic procedure or sovereignty was ever compromised by the EU.

But yet in the name of Brexit, the norms of the UK's unwritten constitution and even the apolitical role of the monarch can be undermined, alongside sacrificing jobs and economic opportunities.

Any no-deal situation would be particularly devastating for Northern Ireland, politically, socially and economically.

Our own Department for the Economy has projected 40,000 jobs could be lost in export-orientated sectors of our economy. That would more than double the numbers unemployed.

It is particularly disappointing the DUP are prepared to be complicit in this constitutional outrage and the undermining of so many institutions they notionally revere. They are also further willing to see a no-deal scenario remain on the table and indeed to continue to be the most likely outcome.

It is reckless to gamble with people's jobs, opportunities, livelihoods and futures.

There is a false presumption keeping no-deal on the table will somehow force the EU to compromise at the 11th hour, which belies the resolve of the EU to protect the Single Market and the balance of trade favouring the EU - namely, while the UK may have a trade surplus with the EU in absolute terms, the EU represents almost 50% of the UK's external trade, whereas the UK only represents less than 10% for the EU.

There is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit.

Alliance's preference continues to be the people of the UK deserve the right to have their say on what has transpired over the past three years through a referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper.

But if Brexit is to happen, then it must proceed on the basis of a negotiated deal, and the current withdrawal agreement, including the backstop.

That represents the already agreed way forward between the UK government and the EU.

The backstop is our insurance policy to protect our particular circumstances, including the Good Friday Agreement.

For now, the priority must be to prevent no-deal, and despite the games being played by the Prime Minister, there is still a slim window in which Parliament can act to protect all of our futures.

Stephen Farry is deputy leader of the Alliance Party

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