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First Minister must address the key concerns over leaving Europe and ensure all rights are protected

letter of the day: brexit fallout

Leaving the EU will lead to "difficult issues relating to the border", potentially creating a "catalyst" for criminality and an "incentive for those who would wish to undermine the peace process". "Northern Ireland must retain competitiveness" and, "importantly, retain access to labour", both skilled and unskilled, particularly given the "many thousands of people who commute each way across the border to work on a daily basis".

And, of course, the uncertainty around the €3.5bn that Northern Ireland expected to draw down from the EU between 2014-2020 is "of real concern to a range of sectors".

While I share each of these concerns, these warnings do not come from me, but from the office of the First and Deputy First Minister and, in particular, DUP leader Arlene Foster, who advocated a vote to Leave the European Union.

After months of dismissing the Remain campaign's arguments as scaremongering, the First Minister has co-written a letter (along with the Deputy First Minister) to the Prime Minister, outlining the key concerns for Northern Ireland ahead of the exit negotiations with the EU.

On reading the letter, one could only hope that there had been a sudden outbreak of reasonableness in the DUP.

Despite wide-ranging political differences, those of us who campaigned to stay in the EU would welcome a Damascene conversion from the DUP and the First Minister on the benefits of staying in Europe - even at this very late stage.

After all, it would not be the first time the DUP came to accept political realities that everyone else had already thought obvious for years.

Unfortunately, that is not what we have seen, with the First Minister having since refused to admit her party made any mistakes on Europe and, instead, expressed excitement over the "opportunities" she expects outside the EU.

Nevertheless, we must now work to ensure the First Minister does not dismiss concerns on Europe as lightly as she has adopted them. We must focus our efforts on protecting freedom of movement for goods, services and people and European investment - as well as fighting for those things left out of the ministers' letter, like the European human rights protections central to the Good Friday Agreement and sustainable peace in Northern Ireland.


MP for South Down

Belfast Telegraph


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