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Tuesday 18 December 2018
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UK envoy: No change over Brexit

BRITISH High Commissioner Tim Stew is confident the British government’s deal to leave the European Union (EU) will stand. Stew was giving Business Day an update on Brexit at a recent event at his Maraval residence.

While a 2016 referendum saw 52 per cent of Britons vote for Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the EU, so much uncertainty has arisen over the terms of the breakaway that all sorts of second-guessing is taking place.

While it may be an assertion of national sovereignty, some say leaving the political and EU economic bloc of 28 states and 513 million people, could hurt the UK economy.

Stew held a function to host two officials from a British government credit agency, UK Export Finance, last Thursday, ironically the same day two ministers quit the British cabinet in protest over the terms of the Brexit deal, namely Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions secretary Esther McVey.

The same day a new poll said 55 per cent of the British want to stay in the EU.

“It’s been an extraordinary day, quite clearly,” Stew said. “You will have heard the prime minister (Theresa May) has been quite clear that she is on the path which the British people chose in the referendum.”

Stew scotched the idea of any second referendum. “No, you can’t have a second referendum. A referendum is a referendum. If you ignore it, then what value would the second one have?”

He said May had vowed to stay the path and deliver what the British people had voted for.

Business Day asked Stew what could be done to resolve the question of choosing either a hard or soft border between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK, but with one-third of the population also identifying with the Republic of Ireland) and the Republic of Ireland (a nation separate from the UK, and which remains in the EU). A soft border would satisfy republicans in Northern Ireland, but could be seen as a back-door way of giving the UK access to EU benefits via Ireland.

“There is a mechanism that has been advanced today for how that could be managed,” Stew said. “Of course we cannot have a different arrangement for Northern Ireland than we have for the rest of the UK.” Asked if he was optimistic that republicans in the north would be satisfied, he expressed confidence in the mechanism published that day to resolve this all.

“There is to be no hard border, because that would go back on the agreements in Ireland that we had reached.”

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