NI referendum is a decision for UK goverment says Labour MP
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Northern Ireland is heading to the local elections on Thursday, with the nationalist party Sinn Féin on the brink of victory according to polls. The reputation of the former political wing of nationalist terrorist group the IRA has improved a great deal, making it a likely winner. Sinn Féin has campaigned on the promise of holding a border referendum after years of unfruitful negotiations between the European Union and the UK over the Northern Ireland protocol.
But the holding of such a referendum is up to the British government, warned Environment Secretary George Eustice.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Secretary Eustice warned: “Whether or not to have a referendum is always a matter for the UK Government. It always has been.”
When pressed on the likelihood of Sinn Fein winning and subsequently holding a border referendum, Mr Eustice answered: “We haven’t got into that.
“We will wait and see what happens when we have that election on Thursday.”
Northern Ireland has already held a referendum on whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom or join with the Republic of Ireland in 1973.
Nationalists boycotted the referendum, which resulted in an overwhelming victory to remain in the United Kingdom.
But now with the EU and the UK into their third year of talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol, a new referendum could see a different result.
The question has divided party leaders in a debate, with some leaders lashing out at Finn Sein for trying to hide the fact that “their number one priority is to push for a border poll.”
According to Secretary Eustice, people in Northern Ireland don’t vote based on the question of leaving or remaining in the United Kingdom.
“As I said, many people in many communities are not voting this way necessarily on the basis of whether they’re nationalists or whether they’re unionists.
“You can’t read too much into that election results based on the parties that are there.
“And whichever party comes out as the largest party, the power-sharing will carry on, as it’s done previously.
If Sinn Fein wins the election, they will take the first minister’s position and be free to hold a referendum.
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“You have power-sharing, so whoever the largest party be, there must be a power-sharing executive.
“That’s how things are established in Northern Ireland and obviously what we want to do is for Northern Ireland people to decide who their representatives are and what the make-up of that is.
“But it’s very important that whatever’s decided respects both communities. That’s always been the case, that’s an absolutely critical component of the Good Friday Agreement.
“And we’re committed to trying to make the Northern Ireland protocol work better to improve the way that’s interpreted in agreement with the European Union to make sure that the goods can flow”, Secretary Eustice concluded.
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