The secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, has said he “rejects emphatically” any suggestions that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will undermine peace in the six counties.
Mr Brokenshire, despite admitting shock at the referendum result in June, said the decision must be seen as an opportunity.
“I firmly believe that it provides us with new opportunities and a new outlook on what the United Kingdom can achieve,” he said at Dublin’s Irish Times Brexit Summit.
“Article 50 will be triggered and our negotiation with the EU will begin. The country voted to leave the EU in a referendum approved by an Act of Parliament and the government is determined to respect the result of the referendum.”
The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP supported the Remain campaign in the run up to the vote but is now of the opinion that sulking would be counter-productive. He laid out a five-point approach which will benefit the position of Northern Ireland when it comes to the Anglo-Irish relations during the Brexit process.
“We are determined to maintain and strengthen the bonds within these islands,” he said. “I most emphatically do not see our departure from the European Union as presenting any insurmountable impediment to that.”
Like several high-ranking politicians in both Ireland and the UK, he expressed no desire to “return to the borders of the past”.
“The open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, along with the Common Travel Area, had served our peoples well,” he said. “These arrangements existed long before our countries joined the European Union and both our respective governments, along with the Northern Ireland Executive, are determined to keep it as open as possible.”
His third point was to promote cooperation between all parties in continuing the fight against terrorism and organised crime. He also stressed that the UK government would remain faithful to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.
“I reject emphatically any suggestion that the decision to leave the EU will somehow weaken or imperil the political settlement in Northern Ireland or the peace and stability that we now have.”
Finally he repeated the claim that Westminster would work closely with each of the devolved administrations when it comes to negotiating the UK’s position