Belfast Telegraph

UUP's Kennedy in warning about Brexit no-deal dangers

UUP candidate Danny Kennedy with party leader Robin Swann at yesterday’s
European election manifesto launch at the Stormont Hotel
UUP candidate Danny Kennedy with party leader Robin Swann at yesterday’s European election manifesto launch at the Stormont Hotel
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The Ulster Unionist candidate for Europe has said a no-deal Brexit would be "a step into the unknown".

Launching his bid at the Stormont Hotel yesterday, Danny Kennedy called for a "sensible Brexit" that protected businesses, the agri-food sector and jobs for young people.

He also criticised those calling for a second referendum or using Brexit to push for a border poll.

"We need a sensible Brexit. That is what this election is about," he said.

"It is not about refighting the referendum.

"The days of Remainers and Leavers came to an end once the people of the United Kingdom cast their vote in 2016.

"This is about electing voices who will be there to make sure Northern Ireland does not get a raw deal."

Mr Kennedy is competing for one of three seats.

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson and the DUP's Diane Dodds are favoured to retain their seats, while Alliance leader Naomi Long and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood are also standing.

During his speech, Mr Kennedy said preventing a hard border with the Republic was just as important as preventing one down the Irish Sea.

"I'm a border unionist. I've spent most of my life in south Armagh," he said.

"I understand the border, I know what happens and how it happens.

"I know how crucial it is to trade, to business and to our economy and I also know that we cannot return to a hard border.

"But I have to say that I am disappointed that those who have been loud opponents to a hard border on the island fall silent when it comes to the prospect of a hard border in the Irish Sea."

On the threat of a no-deal, he said: "We simply can't afford to take a step into the unknown.

"I understand that people are keen to see Brexit delivered, but it has to be done in a way which protects business, our agri-food sector and gives maximum opportunity to our young people for the future."

The former Stormont minister warned voters that nationalism was attempting to use Brexit "as a key opportunity to realise their ultimate ideal" of a border poll.

"That is why it is vital that I am returned as a pro-Union voice who will help to bring some certainty, rather than the instability being offered by those who will seek another referendum, whether on EU membership or Irish unity."

Unlike the Alliance and SDLP leaders, Mr Kennedy promised his role as an MEP would be his only job even if the term lasted five weeks, five months or five years.

"But even if it is for a short period of time, it does not mean those who are elected will not have huge implications for Northern Ireland's long-term future," he said.

He added that a no-deal has the potential "to do serious if not fatal damage to many of our industries".

"As someone who loves Northern Ireland, I couldn't stand up and advocate that and I'm astonished that anyone who loves the Union as much as I do would be prepared to tolerate that," he said.

Earlier, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said: "This election is about who you want to represent you in Brussels now, not a re-run of a vote taken in 2016.

"It is about looking to the future, and the future relationship that the United Kingdom - including Northern Ireland - has with the European Union."

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