Brandon Lewis tells Colum Eastwood there is 'no legal requirement' for him to outline border poll criteria

Brandon Lewis, the British Secretary of State, has said there's no legal requirement for him to set out the criteria under which he might call a border poll as provided for under the Good Friday Agreement.

Thursday, 5th November 2020, 6:07 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th November 2020, 6:10 pm

Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood asked him to outline what indicators Mr. Lewis would be using to consider whether or not to trigger an Irish unity referendum.

"The Secretary of State will be aware that the conversation about our constitutional future is happening right across our community and every family in Northern Ireland.

"Of course, the Good Friday agreement provides the mechanism for dealing with that constitutional future through a unity referendum. Will the Secretary of State tell us exactly what criteria he will use in future to determine when a border poll will be called?" the Derry MP asked.

Colum Eastwood

Mr. Lewis said he saw the sense of 'a strong constitutional debate'.

"We are seeing that across the United Kingdom and I encourage that; I think it is important that we all look at and discuss the strength and importance of the Union. In Northern Ireland, we have seen about £2.4 billion of support, because it is part of the UK, as we deal with covid," he said.

However, Mr. Lewis refused to outline any framework for the triggering of a poll.

Under the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which made it law, there is a provision that if majority support for a united Ireland appeared likely, a border poll must be called by a British Secretary of State.

"On his specific question, the High Court, in a recent judicial review on this very matter, agreed that there is no legal requirement, nor that it is in the public interest for the Government to set out a specific policy detailing any fixed criteria on the holding of a poll," said Mr. Lewis.