Parties call for NI to have special status as Article 50 to be triggered

Sammy Wilson said triggering Article 50 is a step 'towards freedom from the restraints of Europe'

Sammy Wilson said triggering Article 50 is a step 'towards freedom from the restraints of Europe'

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has welcomed the triggering of Article 50 to leave the EU on March 29 as another step towards “an outward-looking, global economy”.

Representatives from the other main parties are not so optimistic.

UUP’s Danny Kinahan lamented the fact the Executive is in no place to negotiate while SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said that all parties here must put their weight behind a common position.

Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd is hoping for intervention from the Irish government to achieve special status for Northern Ireland.

Mr Wilson said: “Hopefully now there will finally be an acceptance of reality from those who have either attempted to block Brexit completely or to frustrate the will of the people as expressed in the referendum.”

He added: “It is the latest step forward towards freedom from the restraints of Europe and towards an outward-looking, global economy.

“We will ensure that Northern Ireland’s voice will be heard at the heart of the decision-making process, even if others have abdicated their role and walked away from the table.”

Ulster Unionist MP Mr Kinahan said it was “a sad indictment of the last Northern Ireland Executive that there is currently no Executive in place to feed into the UK negotiating position”.

He said: “We must see a successful resolution to the issue of the border, so our people and goods can still flow freely across it.”

Mr Eastwood said the Article 50 announcement must be met with strength from devolved administrations.

He said: “The British government’s Article 50 solo run must be met with strength from the devolved administrations. In the North that means that all parties must come together to adopt a common position on Brexit that defends the interests of people here.”

Mr O’Dowd said the idea of a designated special status for Northern Ireland was “supported by Fianna Fáil and Labour in Leinster House and by the majority of parties and MLAs in the Assembly”.

He added: “The Irish government now has a duty and a responsibility to act in the best interests of all Irish citizens and act to help achieve designated special status for the North.”

Meanwhile, Alliance’s Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry said the UK was being “led over a cliff-edge” by the triggering of Article 50.

“There will be huge economic, social, financial and political consequences from Brexit, especially a hard landing,” he said.

Calling for a “special deal” for Northern Ireland, he said a “coherent and sustainable Executive” needed to be put in place while the UK government needed to “make a much stronger statement” recognising this region has a range of particular and unique challenges arising from Brexit.