Northern Ireland news

People's Vote is central plank in Alliance manifesto

Naomi Long said there is 'no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit'. Picture by Hugh Russell

ALLIANCE has pledged to support a so-called People's Vote if it secures representation at Westminster, with the party's manifesto claiming Brexit is "an act of huge self-sabotage".

Launching her party's general election policy document in Belfast yesterday, Alliance leader Naomi Long said the UK's bid to leave the EU had "already brought increased chaos and division to our society".

She said Brexit was "paralysing politics, risking jobs and threatening the stability of our community".

"There is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit," Mrs Long said.

"People right across Northern Ireland, even those who originally supported leaving the EU, are now realising that."

The Alliance manifesto ranks a People's Vote as the preferred option for stopping Brexit, but in the absence of a further referendum the party would accept the whole of the UK remaining in the single market and customs union, or alternatively a special deal for Northern Ireland that "helps the economy and defends the Good Friday Agreement".

The manifesto describes the revised withdrawal agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson as entailing "a more bureaucratic, complicated and expensive framework of checks" than its predecessor, with the party advocating several mitigations if the deal is ratified.

Elsewhere, Alliance calls for negotiations to restore devolution in the immediate aftermath of the election.

It believes an "independent mediator" should oversee the talks and that if an executive is not formed by January 13, there should be fresh elections.

The manifesto also sets out a series of measures to improve governance and transparency in any restored institutions, including ending the process of community designations and reforming the petition of concern.

Alliance, which is standing in all of the north's 18 Westminster constituencies, continues to campaign for the publication of political donations made between 2014-2017, when new disclosure legislation was introduced, while also advocating a Single Transferable Vote system for Westminster elections.

The party also pledges to reduce the UK's net greenhouse emissions to zero by 2030.

During the manifesto launch, Mrs Long defended Alliance's decision not to stand aside for other pro-Remain election candidates, saying her party wanted to offer voters choice.

"The issue of Brexit is bigger than the Alliance Party but looking at each constituency I don't see better candidates than those being put forward by the Alliance Party and I say that not just out of pride in my colleagues, but in terms of the manifesto on which they are standing and the values and vision which will drive them," she said.

"That is why we will not be stepping aside in any constituency. The voters will make their decision as to who they want to represent them in Westminster."

Ms Long also criticised what she termed as a "brutal election campaign".

The party's North Belfast candidate Nuala McAllister said she would not "abandon" Alliance voters by not standing for election.

"What sort of leadership would it be to step aside and endorse the two parties who have shown such a poor ability to lead us in Northern Ireland, what kind of choice would that leave people," she said.

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