Secretary of State pens open letter to Northern Ireland over Brexit deal

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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has penned an open letter seeking to assure citizens that the draft Brexit deal is not a threat to rights or the Union.

Karen Bradley published the letter on Saturday, stating that Theresa May’s deal protects the Belfast agreement, and that any backstop arrangement would be temporary.

“As the day of the meaningful vote in Parliament approaches, I wanted to emphasise what the deal means specifically for the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.

“The Northern Ireland Protocol has some important guarantees for the people in Northern Ireland.

“It guarantees that even in the unlikely event that the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not in place by the end of the implementation period in December 2020, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

“At the same time the protocol also contains legally binding commitments that both the UK and EU will take the necessary steps to ensure the backstop is temporary.

“Importantly, the agreement upholds the Belfast Agreement in all its parts, including the consent principle over Northern Ireland’s place within our Union. It ensures people and businesses that rely on an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can continue living their lives and operating as they do now. It is not a threat to the integrity of the Union, or a threat to the rights people enjoy today.

“In short, we have secured an outcome for Northern Ireland that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland and a customs border down the Irish Sea.

“The deal avoids Northern Ireland being in a separate customs territory to the rest of the UK, something that the EU had originally sought to impose. Instead, it achieves the maintenance of a single UK customs territory.

“In line with the clear commitments we made in the December Joint Report, the UK would ensure unfettered access for NI businesses to the whole UK internal market.

“The deal protects all the things we value. For all the people in Northern Ireland, this means continuing the progress over the past two decades under the Belfast Agreement, supporting our business community to thrive, ensuring a good deal for our agricultural and fishing industries and providing a safe, secure and prosperous society for future generations.

“Now is the time to come together to build a brighter future for Northern Ireland.”

The letter comes just one day after Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington visited North Belfast to sell the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

The parliamentary arithmetic is still against the Government ahead of next week’s withdrawal treaty vote.

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