SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster Patsy McGlone has warned that the continued uncertainty over political developments on Brexit and Stormont risks devastating the local economy and causing chaos for the food and agricultural sector.
The SDLP spokesperson on agriculture was speaking as the Prime Minister Theresa May began the latest attempt to get approval for her Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament.
Mr McGlone said: “Two years after the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive we are now entering what may be the most important weeks for devolved government.
“By abandoning responsibility for representing the people in the Assembly and in Westminster, Sinn Féin have granted the Brexiteers in the DUP the whip-hand over a minority Tory Government in London.
“That has led directly to the current political brinkmanship that is increasing the possibility of the chaos of a No Deal Brexit and its devastating impact on the food and agricultural sector here, and the whole economy across the island of Ireland.
“The continued absence of responsible leadership by those parties risks widespread public disillusionment in the political process of dialogue and compromise that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago, and the peace we have enjoyed since then.
“The SDLP has consistently argued for a return to the principles of that agreement and the formation of a genuine power-sharing Executive. Such an Executive would be able to take ownership of the Brexit debate on behalf of all our citizens and negotiate the best possible way forward through the crisis we now face.
“As it stands, the current Brexit date of March 29th will not be the end of negotiations. The future trading relationship between the UK and the EU remains to be determined. As does the future arrangements for the food, agriculture and fisheries sectors within the UK.
“Our local economy remains highly dependent on the sustainability of our agri-food sector. The future arrangements within the UK, on the island of Ireland, and with the rest of Europe will be essential to securing its continued success.
“The SDLP has held regular meetings with both Irish Government representatives and Ministers, to express the concerns of the people from Northern Ireland. These concerns are then detailed to the EU 27 member states via the Irish Government. The SDLP will continue to point out that the best outcome for our agri-food sector is one that remains as close as possible to the current situation.
“We want to see the return of a power-sharing Executive, accountable to a locally elected Assembly, that can present a unified position to all our partners in this process and help secure the prosperous sustainable economic future that all parties claim to want.”