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Sinn Féin opposed to Stormont veto on the backstop – O’Neill

18 September, 2019 - by Michelle O'Neill


Sinn Féin Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill said today the party does not support a Stormont veto on the Irish backstop. Michelle O’Neill was addressing business and community representatives at the Mac in Belfast at the launch of a party economic document ‘Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’.

Michelle O’Neill said: 

“As we hurtle towards a No Deal crash-out the reckless DUP/Tory Brexiteers are running out of road.

“A ‘North only backstop’ would not be a constitutional issue as the DUP has falsely claimed.

“It provides legal protections for the All-Ireland arrangements, and the totality of relationships which already exist, ‘and unless and until alternative arrangements’, which both sides agree on, can replace it.

“It is worth noting here today, that on 22nd August 2019 the pro-remain Assembly parties together wrote to Donald Tusk confirming our shared support for the backstop contained within the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.

“Part of what we said was that;

'It is our view that a legally operable guarantee to protect the Good Friday Agreement, maintain north-south co-operation and preserve the all-island economy and to prevent a return to physical infrastructure on our border or physical checks at or near the border is necessary to preserve progress that we have made.’

It is a no brainer if we are to build a prosperous economy.

“Sinn Féin do not support a Stormont veto because a backstop that can be vetoed is not a backstop. 

“It is highly unlikely that the EU would either, and we’ve heard further evidence of this over the past day or so from Guy Verofstadht, Michel Barnier and Jean Claude Junker - why? – because the Article 50 negotiation is between the EU27 and the British Government, not the Assembly and the EU.” ENDS/CRÍOCH

Full text of Michelle’s O’Neill’s speech at the economic strategy launch at the Mac 18th September 2019

INTRODUCTION

Dia dhaoibh ar maidin.

I am delighted to be here this morning to launch our party’s consultation on economic strategy.

There is no doubt that the North’s economy is unrecognisable from 20 years ago. 

The Good Friday Agreement, the end of conflict, and EU aid transformed the all-island economy and enabled the Executive to deliver a peace dividend for many citizens.

Common membership of the EU single market and customs union has underpinned prosperity, enabled seamless trade across the island, and created employment across our key sectors, including agri-food; manufacturing and engineering; construction; financial services; creative and digital; legal services and tourism.

This progress is seriously endangered by Brexit.

I and other senior colleagues are continuously engaging with our business and sectoral leaders who are speaking with one voice, loud and clear when they say that Brexit threatens North South trade, poses a real risk to the cost of doing business, and will have a devastating impact on employment and economic growth.

Exclusion from the EU customs union and single market will disrupt trade, slow business down and put the cost of doing business up.

An analysis carried out by the NI civil service has predicted a risk to 40,000 jobs if we are forced from the EU without a deal.

Indeed the British Governments own analysis has predicted significant disruption to integrated supply chains across this island rendering cross-border trade and our agri-food sector virtually impossible for many operators.  

It will have devastating effects for the island of Ireland and our people, businesses, farmers, workers and communities.

IRISH BACKSTOP

I am regularly reminded we have special and unique circumstances which must be understood and respected.

From the outset of Brexit we understood the need to find an Irish solution to an English problem.

The formal policy solution put forward by Sinn Féin in 2016 called for ‘Designated Special Status within the EU’.

That remains our firm position.

The backstop reflects this position and is the legal guarantee and least worst outcome.

As we hurtle towards a No Deal crash-out the reckless DUP/Tory Brexiteers are running out of road.

A ‘North only backstop’ would not be a constitutional issue as the DUP has falsely claimed.

It provides legal protections for the All-Ireland arrangements, and the totality of relationships which already exist, ‘and unless and until alternative arrangements’, which both sides agree on, can replace it.

It is worth noting here today, that on 22nd August 2019 the pro-remain Assembly parties together wrote to Donald Tusk confirming our shared support for the backstop contained within the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration.

Part of what we said was that:

“It is our view that a legally operable guarantee to protect the Good Friday Agreement, maintain north-south co-operation and preserve the all-island economy and to prevent a return to physical infrastructure on our border or physical checks at or near the border is necessary to preserve progress that we have made.”

It is a no brainer if we are to build a prosperous economy.

Sinn Féin do not support a Stormont veto because a backstop that can be vetoed is not a backstop. It is highly unlikely that the EU would either, and we’ve heard further evidence of this over the past day or so from Guy Verofstadht, Michel Barnier and Jean Claude Junker - why? – Because the Article 50 negotiation is between the EU27 and the British Government, not the Assembly and the EU. 

AN ECONOMIC STEP CHANGE

As well as securing the backstop we need to build on the peace dividend and bring about a step change in economic policy and performance.

Sinn Féin has engaged extensively with the business community, trade unions, and civil society on how to bring about this step-change. 

The document we are launching today is both the product of those engagements, and a basis for us to continue that Dialogue.

We have organised consultation events [in the North West, Mid Ulster, etc] and I encourage you to attend those events and give your views.

CONCLUSION

So my message this morning is a simple but an important one. 

The island of Ireland faces it biggest and most profound challenges in a generation.

We need a deal for the North and the island of Ireland by the end of this month.

It is over 900 days that there has been no functioning Assembly or Executive in the North.

That position is untenable and unsustainable.

We in Sinn Féin want the two Governments’ Talks process to succeed, and we want to see the power-sharing institutions delivering for all of our people.

We need to deliver the promise of the GFA to a new generation, and work to implement the Agreement without impediment, attaining its full potential in every respect and for stimulating economic growth and prosperity for everyone.

I will now hand over to our Economy spokesperson Conor Murphy to give you an overview of the report.

Thank you.

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