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23 June 2017

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Brexit – Irish Government priority in talks must be Designated Special Status Within EU for North

● Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking about Brexit at a press conference at the European Union summit in Brussels on Friday

Twelve months on from the referendum, we still don't have a clear picture of the Tory British Government’s Brexit strategy

TODAY marks the first anniversary of the Brexit referendum when the people of the North voted to remain in the European Union.

The majority of voters who went to the polls to choose their future within the EU came from all backgrounds – nationalist and unionist, loyalist and republican.

Since then, the Tory Government at Westminster has been trying to ignore that democratic mandate in favour of its disastrous Brexit plan.

That is the only part of the Tory Brexit plan that has been clear.

Border Communities Against Brexit John O'Dowd, NOD, Mickey Brady

Border Communities Against Brexit protest with John O'Dowd MLA (Upper Bann), Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile (Belfast) and Mickey Brady MP (Newry & Armagh)

Twelve months on from the referendum, and despite a general election campaign dominated by Brexit and the fact that the British Government has now published what it describes as its legislative programme, we still don't have a clear picture of its Brexit strategy.

Now that the Brexit negotiations have begun, it seems that the Tories are intent on pursuing a Brexit which would see the North being dragged out of the EU, including leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market.

They have been supported in this by the DUP who have happily lined up to support Prime Minister Theresa May and the Tories in their Brexit stance.

Now that the DUP are attempting to get even closer to Theresa May and the Tories by supporting a minority Government, they are signalling further support of the Tory Brexit drive.

Daily Mirror Crackpot Coalition

The reality is that the DUP, despite what they have said, are in favour of a Tory Brexit.

They may use rhetoric to the contrary but it is simply that – empty rhetoric.

The fact is that the DUP are in support of leaving the EU against the democratically-expressed wishes of the people of the North.

The DUP are in support of leaving the Single Market and they are in favour of leaving the Customs Union.

In short, the DUP are in support of the Tory Brexit.

No matter what way they try to dress it up with honeyed words about wanting to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and no matter how many times they parrot Theresa May's frankly meaningless line of 'no return to the borders of the past’, under their plans, there will undoubtedly be an EU land border on the island of Ireland.

The best way to avoid this is for the North to remain in the EU; and the best way to achieve that is to secure Designated Special Status for the North Within the EU.

This is possible. This is achievable.

Brexit EU Designated Status cover

Sinn Féin has put forward a credible alternative to Brexit with our case for Designated Special Status and we have been building support for it across Ireland and across Europe.

While we fully acknowledge that the EU is far from perfect and is in need of major reform, the outworking of the Tory Brexit agenda would be a disaster for the island of Ireland and would reinforce partition.

We want to see the entire island of Ireland in a more social, democratic and demilitarised Europe. 

In the Dáil, Sinn Féin TDs brought forward a motion calling on the Irish Government to adopt the demand for Designated Special Status for the North Within the EU as its negotiating position in the Brexit talks and that was passed by the Dáil with the support of other parties.

Barnier in LH with GA

● EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier listens to Gerry Adams TD in Leinster House last month

The fact that Simon Coveney, the Irish Government's Minister for Foreign Affairs, has now indicated his support for Designated Special Status for the North is welcome.

However, the Irish Government has yet to provide the details on what it means by special status.

Sinn Féin is very clear. When we say Designated Special Status for the North we mean within the European Union.

We now need to see the Irish Government working towards that goal in the Brexit negotiations.

Our team of Sinn Féin MEPs in Europe has also been garnering support for the North to achieve Designated Special Status Within the EU from MEPs from across Europe in agreement that Special Status or Irish unity are the best possible alternatives to Brexit.

Now that the Irish Government is behind the case for Special Status for the North it now needs to make that a demand in the current negotiations and act to represent the best interests of all Irish citizens.

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