Julian Smith called back from Irish border for Cabinet meeting

The Northern Ireland Secretary cut short a Brexit-focused visit to the Irish border after Cabinet ministers were summoned to Downing Street.

Julian Smith was in Newry on Monday morning where he heard about Brexit concerns from police commanders during an extensive briefing session at a local station.

He was then due to visit a meat processing plant in the city but the engagement was cancelled at the last minute due to developments in London.

Brexit
Mr Smith was due to visit ABP Food Group in Newry (Liam McBurney/PA)

The confirmation of the cancellation came after a morning of conflicting messages from the Northern Ireland Office as to whether the second part of the visit would proceed.

A planned protest by anti-Brexit activists outside the ABP meat plant was called off when it first emerged that Mr Smith may not be attending.

Damian McGenity from the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit criticised the handling of the event.

“It’s very bizarre,” he said outside the plant gates.

“For a British Cabinet minister, someone in his position, to say he’s coming, not say he’s coming, say he’s coming and then cancel.

“It think it’s just typical of how British Cabinet ministers have behaved over the last three years when they come to a border town or a place on the border.

“Either they come secretly and don’t tell anyone, and get a picture taken, or when they do come they don’t engage or, in this case, they just cancel and don’t really care.”

Brexit
Damian McGenity from Border Communities Against Brexit, waiting on the arrival of Mr Smith (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr McGenity said local people had “enormous” concerns about a no-deal Brexit.

“The British Government is in complete chaos, it looks like they will contrive any situation to have a no-deal,” he said.

“For us it’s a disaster, we are at the coal face of Brexit, that will mean a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

Last month, Mr Smith stated his intention to travel to the border to hear the concerns of business and communities living close to what will become the UK’s land frontier with the EU single market post-Brexit.

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