Dominic Grieve QC MP will speak at the People’s Vote “Let Us Be Heard” rally in Belfast today (Saturday). He is expected to say:
“What happens in Northern Ireland has profound importance to all of us in the United Kingdom.
“The uncertainty that Brexit crisis has created here is destabilising. Of course, debate about Northern Ireland’s future is legitimate, but holding that debate while there could be uncertainty over supplies of fresh food and medicine is reckless and dangerous.
“The risks to stability are not confined to the calamity of a No Deal crash out.
“If the Prime Minister does agree some sort of Brexit deal, and if he gets it through Parliament by October 31 – both of which seem highly unlikely – then that too will mean years, if not decades of argument and uncertainty, negotiations and re-negotiations, just as with No Deal.
“Because nothing at all will have been settled about the UK’s final relationship with the EU. And that will matter most in the one part of the UK with a land border with an EU member state, here in Northern Ireland.
“The Prime Minister says he wants a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement as the basis of the future relationship with the EU. It is not clear whether he would want Northern Ireland to be part of that or to be in an economic space where EU rules apply. As always with Boris Johnson he has told different people different things and is hoping no one will notice.
“But whether the rules in Northern Ireland follow those of the EU or those of the rest of the UK one thing is certain – there will be an economic border placed in the way of business in Northern Ireland which does not exist today.
“Some may think that the big issue here is whether that border is across the Irish Sea or across Carlingford Lough. I am not one of them.
“I think the issue is what the impact on peace and progress here would be if some or all of the UK turned into a bargain-basement, low-regulation offshore competitor to the EU, determined to suck all and every penny of investment out of its neighbours. I don’t see how that would be a positive outcome.
“If Northern Ireland were part of that deregulated zone it would be the part of the UK where wages were hit hardest. If it were outside it, it would be the most vulnerable to attractions of the deregulated economy.
“The fact is that we cannot trust the Prime Minister to make the right decisions about Brexit and Northern Ireland and we must to ensure that he is not the person to decide. We should trust the people and insist they have the final say on Brexit in a new referendum.
“That is the only democratic route out of this crisis and, now more than ever, it is what must happen. And after this week – and the collapse of the Prime Minister’s authority we have seen – I believe as never before it is what will happen. For a Conservative like myself my personal distress at losing my party’s whip has been more than balanced by the sense that I am now part of a wide and deepening movement that is true to my deep values and sense of duty to the interests of every citizen in the United Kingdom.”
Notes to editors
The rally is in the Ulster Hall, Bedford Street, Belfast, between 1pm and 2pm.