Northern Ireland news

Brexit department apologises over David Davis's flying visit to border

Brexit secretary David Davis, right, with Co-operation Ireland chief executive Peter Sheridan on the border in Armagh on Monday

David Davis's department was yesterday forced to issue an embarrassing apology after it failed to notify Newry and Mourne MP Mickey Brady ahead of the Brexit secretary's flying visit to the border on Monday.

The ministerial code dictates that visiting ministers inform the local Westminster representative of a planned visit, however, in common with the north's media, the Sinn Féin MP was oblivious to Mr Davis's presence in his constituency.

The Haltemprice and Howden MP is expected to face questions about his brief visit to the border when he faces Westminster's Brexit committee this morning.

He has been widely criticised for Monday's whistle-stop tour of south Armagh, where he was accompanied by Cooperation Ireland chief executive Peter Sheridan.

It was Mr Davis's first visit to the north since September 2016 and his first time at the border for decades.

Mr Brady accused the senior Tory of avoiding a meeting with him because he is "afraid to face the truth about Brexit".

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said of the lack of notification: "This was an administrative oversight for which we are happy to apologise."

It emerged yesterday that the DUP, which is currently propping up Theresa May's minority government through a confidence and supply deal, received no notice of the trip either, though the Northern Ireland Office said it had been informed ahead of the visit.

Mr Brady's party colleague, West Belfast MP Paul Maskey, said Mr Davis had shown "contempt" for the Newry and Armagh MP.

He tweeted: "Out of courtesy and protocol he should have informed you (Mickey Brady) as the local MP.

"Shows his contempt to locally elected representatives who know more about the impacts of Brexit than he will ever know."

SDLP Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna MLA said the criticism directed at Mr Davis was deserved.

"Local politicians, organisations and the media would want to and should have the opportunity to put questions to the minister on his trip – a sceptic may say he wanted to duck and dive any questioning," she said.

"Maybe the minister is troubled that we might actually have asked him if he learned anything and how he plans to stop a hard border here when his government continues to dig its heels in on the customs union."

South Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn said it was difficult to see what purpose Mr Davis's visit served "other than to allow him to say after 22 months that he has actually been to the border".

"The secretive nature of his visit and the fact that he didn't meet with any local community representatives, or give the media opportunities to question him, just underlines how arrogant and unaccountable the Tory Government is when it comes to the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland," he said.

Following the flying visit, during which Mr Davis tweeted: "As we leave the EU it's essential both the UK and EU do what it takes to keep the border, which I saw this morning, free from physical infrastructure.

"We are determined to get this agreed by October."

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