Northern Ireland news

Brexit 'threatens north's peace process', five years on from landmark referendum

Loyalists protesting against the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol in Newtownards, Co Down. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Gavin Cordon, Press Association

BREXIT threatens the Northern Ireland peace process five years on from the landmark vote to leave the EU, Lord Heseltine has said.

However, in a sharply contrasting message, Boris Johnson said Brexit will act as a spur to jobs and renewal across the UK as it recovers from the pandemic.

In a statement to mark the anniversary of the 2016 referendum yesterday, the British prime minister, who spearheaded the successful Vote Leave campaign, said the country had voted five years ago to "take back control of our destiny".

"This government got Brexit done and we've already reclaimed our money, laws, borders and waters," he said.

"Now as we recover from this pandemic, we will seize the true potential of our regained sovereignty to unite and level up our whole United Kingdom.

"With control over our regulations and subsidies, and with freeports driving new investment, we will spur innovation, jobs and renewal across every part of our country."

Lord Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister who is now president of the European Movement, said Brexit was the "very opposite" of what the country needed following the pandemic.

"Five years on, Brexit is far from 'done'. It has only just begun and the forecast is ominous," he said.

"Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon, chief among them the threat to the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

"The fishing industry has now voiced its betrayal and the Australian trade deal will slowly erode the competitiveness of British farmers over the next 15 years.

"Meanwhile, the financial services industry quietly moves its activities to Europe in order to escape the continuing Brexit uncertainty."

For Labour, shadow secretary of state Louise Haigh said Mr Johnson's Brexit deal was responsible for unrest in Northern Ireland.

"There is a direct line from the prime minister's dishonesty over the deal he negotiated, to the instability we see in Northern Ireland today," she said.

"The prime minister pledged never to put barriers down the Irish Sea and then a few months later did exactly that - this dishonesty is still having real consequences."

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