Continued northern representation in Europe can and must be done - Martina Anderson MEP
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has said continued European representation for the north, post-Brexit is both legally possible and permissible, following the launch of legal advice on the issue.
Speaking at the launch of GUE/NGL commissioned legal advice on retaining European voting rights in the north post-Brexit, Martina Anderson said:
“No matter what shade of Brexit we face, the north will suffer. Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement. The prospect of Brexit is already causing serious damage to our agriculture sector and to cross border business and trade. Border communities face increased division and people who cross the border to work and study face tremendous uncertainty.
“One thing that is guaranteed is that decisions made by the European Union will still affect everyday life in the north well after the British have left. It is vital, therefore, that the people of the north have their voices heard in the European Parliament.
"Today we launched an independent legal opinion that demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is both legally possible and permissible. The excellent work done by Barrister Mark Bassett covers EU and Irish law and is unambiguous - with political will, this can be done.”
Martina Anderson continued;
“Citizenship must mean something. Every person in the north of Ireland has the right to EU citizenship and therefore the right to stand and vote in European elections. The European Parliament emphatically endorsed a resolution calling for democratic and social rights to be upheld in the north post-Brexit. The Parliament’s Coordinator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt supports continued representation for the north, as does the Fianna Fáil leader and Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly believes it is worth considering.
“Our recent submission to the Constituency Commission is reinforced by this legal advice. Sinn Féin is calling for the creation of a constituency in the north and for the two additional European Parliament seats being allocated to Ireland to go to the north. This will mean that no one has to sacrifice existing representation and that the people of the north, who voted to remain in the European Union, will have a voice in Europe.
“An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated that the people of the north will never again be left behind by an Irish government. This is the first real test of those words. There are a number of regions and territories across Europe that offer flexible and imaginative solutions to ensure citizens maintain their voting rights, it’s time Ireland did likewise. So now it's over to An Taoiseach.
“2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in the north. Brexit threatens many hard-won rights and protections that we in Sinn Féin will continue to fight to uphold. If the Irish government is serious about joining us in this fight, then they can allocate these two new seats to the north.”