Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard brands Irish Justice Minister 'unionist' in unity row

By Gareth Cross

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard has branded Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan "a unionist" after the minister said the argument for Irish unity should not be combined with Brexit.

Mr Flanagan was responding to the publication of a report on Wednesday which found that the “only winning scenario” for Northern Ireland following Brexit is a united Ireland.

The report was produced by Canadian firm KLC Consultants for US-based Irish American organisation KRB Inc.

It comes as negotiations intensify over whether the UK and EU will agree a backstop plan, resulting in Northern Ireland remaining within the customs union after Brexit.

Responding to the report on Twitter Mr Flanagan said that "conflating Brexit with Irish unity is unhelpful and misguided".

The Justice Minister previously served as Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs and was involved in talks aiming to restore the power-sharing Executive at Stormont following its 2017 collapse.

After criticism of his Tweet Mr Flanagan said that he stood "four-square behind the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement".

In response to the Tweet Sinn Fein's South Down MP said that Mr Flanagan was a "unionist".

"His response to growing demand for Irish unity is entirely predictable, he wants to protect the status quo," Mr Hazzard wrote.

Mr Flanagan has been highly critical of Sinn Fein in the past and said that his party should not share government with them in the Irish Republic.

The 'Costs of Non-Unification – Brexit and the Unification of Ireland' report found that a hard Brexit would reduce Northern Ireland’s GDP by 10.1 billion euro (£8.8 billion) from 2021-25.

Northern Ireland remaining within the single market and customs union would result in a GDP dip of 3.8 billion euro (£3.3 billion), it said.

However, the report found that a united Ireland would see Northern Ireland increase its GDP.

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