Brexit

Northern Ireland will require 'flexible and imaginative solutions' after Brexit

The UK is due to leave the European Union in 2019

POLITICAL stability in the north must not be allowed to become collateral damage of Brexit, a Westminster committee has said.

The House of Lords EU Committee's report on Brexit and devolution said the north would require "flexible and imaginative solutions" after the UK leaves.

The British government needed to "raise its game" and make talks with the devolved administrations over Brexit more effective, it said.

The report added that on the day of Brexit, a large range of powers in areas such as fisheries, agriculture and environmental protection would return from Brussels to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, not Westminster.

It stressed the need for Westminster and devolved governments to "set aside their differences and work constructively together to achieve an outcome that protects the interests of all parts of the UK".

The north voted 'remain' in the EU referendum by a majority of 56 to 44 per cent.

The report said that in Northern Ireland, it "appears that the Brexit debate has undermined political stability and exacerbated cross-community divisions".

This had contributed to the collapse of the Executive and the calling of an early assembly election, it claimed.

The committee noted that the Good Friday Agreement established "a delicate equilibrium, encapsulated in the power-sharing institutions, and the mechanisms for enhanced north-south and east-west cooperation".

The Lords warned: "It is imperative that Brexit does not weaken this equilibrium or the commitment and confidence of both unionist and nationalist communities in the political process.

"While the agreement between the Conservative government and the DUP provides an opportunity for Northern Ireland's interests to gain attention and prominence, the government must also take account of the interests of the nationalist community, in order to maintain its confidence.

"Political stability in Northern Ireland must not be allowed to become `collateral damage' of Brexit."

Special status, the Lords continued, was a politically contentious term in the north, "and we acknowledge the unionist community's concerns that no aspect of the Brexit negotiations should undermine Northern Ireland's ties to the rest of the UK".

"Yet at the same time, the specific circumstances in Northern Ireland give rise to unique issues that will need to be addressed during the Brexit negotiations."

A Westminster government spokesman said no decision-making powers would be taken away from devolved administrations immediately after exit.

"Instead, to protect the UK internal market, some decision-making powers being transferred into UK law will be held temporarily to allow intensive discussion and consultation with the devolved administrations," he said.

"As the Secretary of State has made clear, it is our expectation that the outcome of this process will provide a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved administration and we are committed to positive and productive engagement."

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