Eastwood proposes legal recognition of Ireland’s unique position in EU
He also called on political unionism to reconsider their boycott of an all island civic conversation on Brexit announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Speaking in the Assembly, the SDLP Leader said:
“Brexit is the biggest challenge facing these two islands in a very long time. The fallout from the referendum result has already been considerable - the fallout from a potential hard Brexit will be all the greater and all the worse.
“The British Treasury has reaffirmed its estimates that after 15 years leaving the EU via a hard Brexit will mean a loss of between £38bn and £66bn per year in tax receipts. The fictional referendum figure of an extra £350 million a week doesn’t seem so favourable now. Here in Northern Ireland, these figures will have a devastating effect on our Barnett consequential. We can’t afford the lunacy of this approach. It is an approach which has no mandate here.
“It’s time that the DUP got their heads around the fact that this Tory leadership doesn’t give a damn about the North. They never have. No number of champagne receptions will change that.
“It is therefore time to build an Irish solution to this European problem. This Assembly and the Executive should now work with the Irish and British Governments to ensure that unique legal status is attained for Northern Ireland in the forthcoming negotiations. This status would ensure that the damaging crosswinds of a hard-Brexit would be minimised here. It would mean that we would retain the four freedoms, including trade and movement, across the island. It would ensure that we diverge from a future of self-harm currently being inflicted on the British economy.
“I would like to take this opportunity to appeal once more to political unionism to reconsider their boycott of the Taoiseach’s establishment of a Civic Dialogue across the island. I can promise them that in the confines of that forum there is no trap door to Irish unity. Nor is it a papist conspiracy. Those attending will not be sprayed with holy water at the door. It is about finding practical solutions to possible and probable problems. It is what politicians are paid to do. As Irish nationalists, the SDLP do it each and every day in London. There is no reason why Unionists can’t do it in Dublin.
“Northern Ireland has an open opportunity to gain special EU status and recognition as Britain prepares to leave the EU. We can ensure that any new border is around the island of Ireland and not across it. We can ensure that consent means consent and that remain means remain. Today this Assembly has the chance to back that strategy.