The student leaders of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom have today written to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP, to request an urgent meeting following the Internal Market Bill passing its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Minister had previously confirmed that current British Government strategy on Brexit would undermine the legally binding Ireland protocols of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and the student leaders are seeking assurances that this will not be the case
Students are concerned that the decision of the British Government would undo the Ireland and Northern Ireland protocols, imperiling post-Brexit cross border mobility and would create inevitable instability in Northern Ireland’s delicate peace process. More broadly, students are concerned that the move indicates a bad-faith approach of the UK government in favour of a no-deal outcome, and are anxious to be reassured otherwise
Speaking jointly, the President of NUS-USI, Ellen Fearon (representing some 200,000 students in Northern Ireland), USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick (representing some 370,000 students across Ireland) and National Union of Students President Larissa Kennedy (representing 7 million students across the United Kingdom) said that the admission that the government’s next steps would breach international law undermines the whole basis on which all parties were asked to engage in the Brexit process.
“It is becoming disappointingly clear that the UK government is pursuing a bad-faith approach to negotiations. We were all told that the UK government sought a good deal, was favourably inclined to cross-border mobility and was acting to protect education; it’s now clear that practically everything we were previously told was sacred is eligible for sacrifice in pursuit of an ideological effort to cut all ties with the EU.
“We intend to meet with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as a delegation representing all the students of these islands to discuss how this approach will devastate the interests of students and education institutions whose reality in Northern Ireland is cross-border, and to bring home to him the reality that the creation of a renewed sense of faithlessness from the UK government will inevitably lead to erosion of the already fragile peace in Northern Ireland.
“Whilst the student movement has always been uneasy with the Brexit project, as democrats we have always been at pains to respect the process. It is only possible to do so when the approach is transparent and based on candour. The willingness of the UK government to abandon the principle of the state bound by law utterly undermines the candour and honesty of the other participants, and feels like a repudiation of the trust so many students cautiously placed in the process. It’s up to the British government to prove that they can be trusted, or to abandon any reputation they have had heretofore.”