Lord Empey: Brexit will dominate this Parliament, and it is vital it is well managed

Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by the Prince of Wales presents the government's Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament  in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Her Majesty The Queen accompanied by the Prince of Wales presents the government's Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Given the content of the Queen’s Speech and in the context of the beginning of formal negotiations with the EU this week, it is clear that Brexit will be the dominant issue in Parliament for some time, with no less than eight pieces of proposed legislation related to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

It is vital that Brexit is well managed, and that the final deal is one which ensures that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and that also does not create internal borders within the United Kingdom.

We must also ensure that our agri-food sector can still export freely across Europe without being burdened with restrictive high tariffs.

I will continue to press the government through every stage of negotiations so that issues affecting Northern Ireland are high on the agenda.

It was welcome that the Queen’s Speech contained a commitment to maintain spending of 2% of national income on defence, and pledged to ensure the Armed Forces Covenant applies right across the United Kingdom, which has not always been the case in Northern Ireland.

Likewise, prioritisation of mental health in the NHS is encouraging, and I would hope the next Northern Ireland health minister would follow suit, given our appalling levels of poor mental health locally.

I look forward to the Parliamentary term ahead, which will be crucial for the future of the United Kingdom, and in particular Northern Ireland.

Lord Empey, Ulster Unionist peer, Westminster