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Alliance's Stephen Farry claims British government and DUP ‘acting contrary' to north's interests

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry speaking at the party's annual conference in Belfast. Picture by Arthur Allison

ALLIANCE’S deputy leader has accused the British government and DUP of “acting contrary” to Northern Ireland’s interests through their current Brexit strategy.

Stephen Farry said Arlene Foster’s party did not speak for the north and was “very clearly at odds with large elements of the business community and civil society”.

Speaking at the party’s annual conference, the North Down MLA said the backstop contained in November’s withdrawal agreement was the “minimum involved to avoid a hard border and to protect the Good Friday Agreement”.

He said it wasn’t a constitutional issue and that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK until a majority voted otherwise.

“The backstop builds on existing precedents of some limited checks down the Irish Sea,” he said.

“It does not cut off Northern Ireland from the Great Britain market – rather it allows us to more easily be part of both the UK and EU economies.”

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The Alliance Brexit spokesman said the Tory government and the DUP were “going down a dead end” in trying to change the backstop.

“Indeed, in seeking the hardest Brexit possible and risking even a catastrophic no deal, the DUP seem prepared to tear the last remaining strands of fabric holding this society together,” he claimed.

Mr Farry also welcomed a commitment by Leo Varadkar to prioritise health and educational rights for people in Northern Ireland in any future EU-UK agreement.

Addressing Alliance members on Friday night, the taoiseach said he hoped citizens in the north, whether British or Irish passport holders, could avail of European health insurance and the Erasmus university exchange programme.

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