NI must not be silenced or sidelined on Brexit

In the course of this forthcoming election, we must not lose sight that Brexit remains the biggest threat to the economic and political interests of these islands.

This week it seems likely that Theresa May will outline her vision of a hard Brexit.

Northern Ireland is most exposed in the event of a hard-Brexit and yet our voice faces the risk of being sidelined and silenced.

That is why in the coming weeks I would urge the electorate to vote for parties who are capable of working together and capable of overcoming difference to give voice to our common interests.

The failed ‘Fresh Start’ government could only compile a letter last August which stated the blindingly obvious.

Since the referendum result, they have been asleep at the wheel on the Brexit issue.

Working alongside other parties, the SDLP will offer the chance of a new team who will work in the common interest of gaining special status for Northern Ireland.

We all need to be honest with the public as to what Theresa May’s commitment to a hard Brexit means.

A hard-Brexit means a hard border and it means a hard landing for business and for working families.

A hard-Brexit means an undermining of the Good Friday Agreement. Northern Ireland did not vote for any of these devastating consequences and we should not have to live with them.

Northern Ireland needs its voice at the Brexit table and our votes need to be respected. We did not vote for the future chosen by the English and the Welsh peoples - therefore, we should not be bound to that future.

If there is no mandate to leave the single market and the customs union in Westminster - then there is definitely no mandate to do it in Northern Ireland.

I also note that the British Secretary of State James Brokenshire has repeated his assertion that the triggering of Article 50 will not be delayed, no matter the political situation in Northern Ireland - however, until the imminent verdict of the Supreme Court in London, there remains a major question mark over the legality of that statement.

Mr Brokenshire has no right to speak on behalf of anyone in Northern Ireland – including on Brexit.