Northern Ireland’s Remain parties have ‘grave concerns’ over no-deal Brexit

Northern Ireland’s pro-Remain political leaders have warned Donald Tusk of “grave concerns” about the trajectory towards a no-deal Brexit.

The risk of thousands of job losses and disruption to cross-border all-Ireland trade was raised with the European Council president who chairs summit meetings of European leaders and helps broker compromise among member states.

An open letter was sent on behalf of the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long, the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and the Green Party’s Clare Bailey.

They wrote: “It is our view that the progress made in developing integrated and enduring relationships on this island, politically, economically and socially, over the last 20 years is far too important to abandon. Particularly at a moment when those relationships are being tested.”

They said the proposed exit date of October 31 was fast approaching.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has given Prime Minister Boris Johnson 30 days to find an alternative to the Irish border backstop.

The Stormont politicians wrote: “As leaders of local political parties who represent the cross-community majority who voted to remain in the EU we have grave concerns about the current trajectory toward a no-deal Brexit and the impact this would have on our economy, our border and community cohesion.”

They wrote to confirm support for the backstop contained in the draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration which Theresa May was unable to get through Parliament.

The Northern Irish leaders added: “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 the progress that we have made.

“We trust that the approach adopted by the European institutions to defend all that we have achieved will continue in the weeks ahead.”

Northern Ireland’s largest party, the DUP, favours Brexit and had been propping up the Tories in key Westminster votes before it refused to support the Government over its proposed exit deal.

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