BREXIT “celebrations have been blighted by the betrayal of Northern Ireland,” North Antrim Assemblyman and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said today.
In a statement Mr Allister said: “The moment of the U.K. leaving the EU should evoke unrestrained joy from a eurosceptic like me, but, while this date is a momentous day in our nation’s history, it is undeniably blighted by the betrayal of Northern Ireland in the process.
“Though we joined as one nation, we are not leaving as one nation. Instead this part of the Kingdom is left behind under the control of the EU Customs Union and Single Market.
“A serf-like rule-taker, still subject to ECJ governance on critical trade issues and blocked from enjoying the full benefits of a real Brexit, left to drift apart economically from the GB mainland.
“An Irish Sea border and the fettering of our links to our biggest market, for the sake of unfettered trade with the minnow market of the Republic, is not just a travesty but a manifest nudge of Northern Ireland out of the Union – making Arlene Foster’s choice of venue for the Brexit moment all the more inappropriate.
“The fact that this injury to our position within the U.K. was inflicted in the house of our friends at a time when unionist influence ought to have been at its greatest, adds significantly to the pain.
“So, while pleased our de jure membership of the EU has ended, it is only when, for us all, the de facto position is aligned will it be mission accomplished,” said Mr Allister.
Meanwhile, North Antrim Sinn Féin Assemblyman Philip MGuigan says “Irish Reunification is the ultimate answer to Brexit”.
Speaking at a protest on ‘Brexit Day’ he said “the way back to Europe for Northern citizens is through Irish reunification”.
Mr. McGuigan said in a statement: “The people in the North have been removed from our union with our European neighbours against our will. There is a justifiable anger about this.
“Whilst there are problems with the EU I value the role that the European Union has played as a critical partner for peace in Ireland.
“It has provided substantial political and financial aid which has led to greater economic and social progress across Ireland.
“Whilst we in Sinn Féin were able to work with others to deliver designated status in the North, leaving the EU will have consequences for businesses, farmers, communities and individuals.
“We were able to safeguard the peace process and protection of the Good Friday Agreement and prevent customs border checks or tariffs on this island.
“We have continued access to both the Single Market and Customs Union. There will be no Unionist veto over any of these arrangements in Stormont.
“We have worked to secure the citizenship provisions core to the Good Friday Agreement which recognises the birth right of all the people of the North to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British or both, as they may so choose.
“So while all of this is positive I recognise there is no good Brexit. We will hold both the British Government and European Union to these commitments and responsibilities throughout the negotiations as they proceed to the next phase.
“We will also continue to push for a Unity referendum on this island so that the people here can have their say on which Union they wish to be part of.”
Meanwhile, the focus now needs to be on protecting Northern Ireland from the worst parts of Brexit, Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA has said.