Johnsons’s Brexit Proposals: Who said what?

04 October 2019 - by Matthew Jackson

The UK Government published what they have called their “final proposal” for a Brexit deal on Wednesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for a new Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland however, do not appear to have addressed the concerns many parties and stakeholders have around the border. But who is saying what? We take a look at the headline responses from some of the key voices in the debate.

Political parties

  • DUP: Arlene Foster MLA - Proposals are a “serious and sensible way forward.” Ability of Stormont Assembly to opt in and out of the tabled all-Ireland regulatory arrangements is the “big difference” from the previous Withdrawal Agreement.
  • Sinn Féin: Michelle O’Neill MLA - Proposals an “an act of political sabotage” and fail “to meet the objectives of the Irish backstop.”
  • SDLP: Colum Eastwood MLA - Proposals ‘dead on arrival.’ “The business community have already rejected it [imposition of checks and creation of physical infrastructure]. This is a proposal from a government that doesn’t understand the complexities of this island, but more to the point they don’t care.”
  • UUP: Robin Swann MLA - Proposals would see “businesses and agri-food sector left in a perpetual cycle of uncertainty and “plunges Northern Ireland into a referendum in the Assembly Chamber every four years.”
  • Alliance: Naomi Long MEP - “This proposal is in many ways the worst of both worlds, as we’ve gone from having no new borders to having two.”
  • Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn MP - The Labour leader said the proposals are “simply unworkable… this is not a serious proposal; they are nothing more than a cynical attempt to shift the blame.”
  • Liberal Democrats: Jo Swinson MP - “Creating two borders pushes the UK towards a hard Brexit… this is playing games and we need to give the people a final say [in second referendum].”
  • SNP: Ian Blackford MP - Plans “unacceptable, unworkable and designed to fail…the SNP will never consent to Brexit.”
  • Irish Government - Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that “it will be a no deal if the latest Brexit plan put forward by the UK Government is the final offer” adding that “the Irish Government could not approve the plan to give the Stormont Assembly a say on remaining in the single market.”
  • EU: Council President Donald Tusk - The European Union has said they are “open but not convinced” by the UK’s proposals for a Brexit deal.

Northern Ireland business community

  • NI Chamber of Commerce: Ann McGregor - Plans “not conducive to business growth, export and private sector employment.”
  • CBI: Angela McGowan - “It is a step forward to have fresh proposals on the table, yet Northern Ireland businesses are clear they represent a basis for further discussions, not the final destination."
  • Belfast Chamber of Commerce: Simon Hamilton –  Belfast Chamber is “deeply concerned that the Prime Minister's proposals... run the risk of increasing the cost of doing business with the EU and seriously disrupt vital supply chains.”
  • Manufacturing NI: Stephen Kelly - Proposals “worse than no deal. 1 per cent of our manufacturing firms are large businesses. The other 99 per cent are SMEs. They have neither the capacity to handle these new complexities and associated costs.”
  • FSB NI: Tina McKenzie - “Proposals fall well short of working for FSB members. All the promises of unfettered access have been abandoned. NI is a small business economy and this is a death knell for some of those businesses.”
  • NI Retail Consortium: Aodhán Connolly - “Plans unworkable and unpalatable. It is clear that he [PM Boris Johnson] has not listened to the needs of the Northern Ireland business community or Northern Ireland.” Proposals “will lead to complexity, delays, tariffs, VAT and cost rises that will make NI goods less competitive and squeeze our household budgets.”
  • Retail NI: Glyn Roberts - Proposals have “ignored concerns of Retail NI members and would result in north to south tariffs which would cause huge negative impacts upon our farmers and the agri-food sector.”
  • Fane Valley Co-Op: Trevor Lockhart - “Pursuit of getting a deal ultimately a balance between what works politically and what works economically. As they currently stand, the proposals don't represent a final destination for Northern Ireland business. Backstop offered best of both worlds, these proposals offer worst of both worlds.”
  • NI Food and Drinks Association: Declan Billington – The taxation barriers in new proposals present significant difficulties for farmers and businesses in Northern Ireland, threatening their viability.
  • Freight Transport Association: Seamus Leheny – “70 per cent of cross border trade is ingredients and components. While Great Britain is Northern Ireland’s biggest market, we simply won’t be able to make those products anymore if there are tariffs or regulatory barriers.”
  • Ulster Farmers' Union: Ivor Ferguson - "While it is encouraging the government is pursuing a Brexit deal, the proposals as they stand do not address all its concerns, particularly around tariffs and customs."