Naomi Long says EU poll presents opportunity to stop Brexit
NEXT week's European election presents a "small window of opportunity" to stop Brexit, according to Alliance leader Naomi Long.
Launching her party's manifesto for the May 23 poll, the East Belfast MLA urged those giving Alliance their first preference to vote for other pro-Remain candidates on the ballot, although she did not specify any order.
Ten days out from what is thought to be Alliance's best ever prospect of returning an MEP, Mrs Long said Brexit had brought "increased chaos and division", while "paralysing politics" in Northern Ireland and Britain.
"It has placed jobs in jeopardy and endangered the stability of our community," she said, adding that the June 2016 referendum on EU membership was "tainted by lies and dark money".
The Alliance leader is clearly contesting next week's election on the basis that it relates solely to the UK's continued membership of the EU.
While acknowledging that the "EU is not perfect", she said the institution "works in breaking down barriers and showing we are better together".
She said Brexit had yet to happen and that it could be stopped.
"It is a small window of opportunity but we must grasp the opportunity."
Mrs Long said the result of the local government elections earlier this month, where her party increased its council representation by 65 per cent, demonstrated that Alliance was "in prime position to benefit from transfers from other parties, in addition to receiving more first preference votes".
She said if she was elected it would "show the EU, and indeed the world, Northern Ireland wants to remain".
"Brexit is not an orange or green issue and I am not an orange or green politician," she said.
"In 2016, people right across our community came together to vote Remain – I believe we can achieve better together and show that same spirit again on May 23.”
The Alliance manifesto advocates a second referendum on EU membership.
If Brexit does become a reality, Mrs Long's party would like it to be as soft as possible, with the whole of the UK remaining in the single market and customs union.
Alliance also backs the withdrawal agreement's backstop, which the leader described as a "vital insurance policy" that would protect the north's economy and the Good Friday Agreement.