Voting against trade deal is voting for no-deal Brexit, says NI Secretary
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Those who vote against the Brexit trade deal are voting for a no-deal Brexit, the Northern Ireland Secretary has said.
As DUP MP Sammy Wilson railed against the deal in the House of Commons, describing his party as “disappointed Brexiteers”, Brandon Lewis described his party’s position as “a bit short-sighted”.
The House of Commons was recalled on Wednesday to ratify the deal before the end of the year.
The EU (Future Relationship) Bill is expected to pass comfortably in both the Commons and the Lords with the backing of Labour.
But none of the Northern Ireland parties are expected to back the deal, with the DUP and SDLP having indicated they will vote against, while Alliance MP Stephen Farry said he will not vote for it.
Mr Lewis said the UK has left the EU, and those who vote against an “historic consensus” free trade deal, will be “voting for a no-deal”.
“That’s the reality of what people vote on today,” he told media in a virtual press conference.
“In the Northern Ireland parties, there are different issues … some of the people in Parliament today who may vote against the deal are actually very much in favour of leaving the European Union.
“Ultimately, this is a deal that works for Northern Ireland in a sense it gives Northern Ireland a unique global opportunity because Northern Ireland businesses will have a position from which to trade that no-one in the world has got. That could be very, very good for business investment and job growth.”
Mr Lewis also insisted that he believes the transition period will end smoothly later this week.
“We are ready, particularly now with the free trade deal, I think some of the concerns that people might have had, the trade deal itself -assuming it passes through Parliament – makes life much easier for a whole range of areas, but the protocol agreement before Christmas dealt with a lot of the issues for Northern Ireland in the first place, let alone the £400 million investment we’re going to be making to give further support to businesses,” he said.
“I think we will be in a good place.
“When you have a big momentous point like January 1 in terms of the first day outside of the transition period, that is change and people will have a view that will be different.
“I suspect what we will find a few weeks from now in February is that life is pretty much as it was back in November … in terms of trade I suspect it will be a lot smoother than some people might expect.”
Mr Lewis also rejected the suggestion that Brexit could hasten the end of the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
“I fundamentally disagree with that, I think actually quite the opposite,” he said.
“If you look at what Northern Ireland has benefited from in terms of the last year as we have gone through Covid, I think its position in the UK has been hugely important and it’s been an important part of the UK more generally.
“And as we leave the transition period, Northern Ireland is going to have this phenomenal benefit of being not just part of the UK customs territory and single market, but also that ability to trade freely with the EU.
“It’s going to have a unique position that if it wasn’t part of the United Kingdom, it wouldn’t have. I think if we can deliver on that economically, I think is something that means that people in Northern Ireland will want to stay in that rather advantageous position that countries around the world, I suspect, would be quite envious of.”