Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: It's vital our voice is heard in Brexit talks

The House of Lords EU Committee's report on the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland contains little that has not been said before, but it draws all the concerns together in one neat package and, importantly, brings them out of our partisan politics.

It could even be argued that the Lords have shown greater awareness of the sensitivities of Brexit here than the Tory government which will be negotiating on our behalf.

While it has to be accepted that Brexit is a reality - even if Northern Ireland voted against it - the impact it has had already in souring political relationships between unionists and nationalists could worsen if efforts to mitigate its effects are not made.

The Upper House does not underplay the impact of Brexit - worsening divisions, raising the spectre of a border poll, and contributing to the fall of the devolved government - and warns it threatens the fragile political settlement in Northern Ireland.

And they also underscore the need for the Government, which now has a working relationship with the DUP, to take account of nationalists' interests, noting that due to Sinn Fein's abstentionist policy, that section of the community is now voiceless at Westminster.

Perhaps the one part of the report which will displease the Prime Minister most is the Lords' call for the government to up its game in relation to involving the devolved administrations in the Brexit negotiating process.

Many critics have noted that the Government has paid virtual lip-service to concerns voiced in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and that Theresa May has made only a flying visit here.

There is merit in the Committee's suggestion for a Joint Ministerial Committee from the Regions to meet monthly as a way of ensuring the voices of the regions are heard.

Except, that is, for Northern Ireland which would have no representation on such a committee since there is no devolved administration operating here.

Brexit, arguably, is the most fundamental challenge facing the UK in generations and our political parties will have little input into how the province will fare.

One worrying example noted by the Lords was whether EU funding given to the regions would be replaced by Treasury funding based on the Barnett Formula, which would leave Northern Ireland worse off.

Another compelling reason for a return to Stormont, but are the parties listening?

Belfast Telegraph


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