The Secretary of State for the North, Karen Bradley, declared herself utterly opposed to the imposition of a hard border on Ireland during her first visit to Derry yesterday.
She was speaking following a tour of the city during which she met students, teachers, police officers, business people, medical staff and patients at Altnagelvin Hospital.
The Secretary of State said the flying visit had given her a clear-cut sense of how anxious people in Derry were about the potential impact of Brexit on society and the economy.
Though a campaigner for to ‘Remain’ prior to the Brexit Referendum in 2016, Mrs. Bradley said she was now committed to implementing the democratic will of the majority of people in the United Kingdom by leaving the EU.
Notwithstanding this commitment, she said she wanted to ensure that the North West was not damaged by the Brexit revolution and that she understood how interdependent the Derry and Donegal economies were.
Mrs. Bradley said this had been brought home to her during a walk around the historic Derry Walls and a visit to the cross-border NW Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin.
“In a place like Derry/Londonderry you stand there on the City Walls and you can see the border. Altnagelvin Hospital is treating people from the Republic as well as treating people from the United Kingdom.
“This is something that brings home the need to work across the border and that’s why we have made this commitment that there will be no hard border; no new physical infrastructure and frictionless movement of goods and people.
“The Common Travel Area being respected is so important to make sure that Brexit works for everybody.”
Working for everybody insofar as Mrs. Bradley is concerned means, no hard border in Ireland or between Britain and Ireland. It’s something she’s acutely aware of, not just as Secretary of State, but as the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands.
One of the biggest employers in Leek, in the centre of her constituency is Ornua, formerly the Irish Dairy Board, whose main business is repackaging imported Irish cheddar for English supermarkets.
“We have to make sure there is frictionless movement and no border down the Irish Sea,” she maintained.
“People have been really clear about it. From a constituency point of view I understand it. I’ve got hundreds of jobs reliant on it so I want to see us make a success of this. There’s a real determination from the UK Government, the Irish Government and the EU are determined also that there will be no hard border and no new physical infrastructure.”