Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann MLA has described the report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) – ‘The UK Border: how prepared is Northern Ireland for exiting the EU?’ – as a wake-up call.
Robin Swann MLA said:
“The Northern Ireland Audit Office report provides a useful assessment of where we are in terms of Brexit arrangements and it is a wake-up call which does not make comfortable reading.
“The Ulster Unionist Party has regularly raised its concerns and frustrations at the difficulties caused for the people of Northern Ireland due to the lack of a fully functioning devolved administration at Stormont.
“There is no question that the general uncertainty surrounding the position of the UK Government with regard to Brexit is problematic for those matters that are reserved – border, trade, customs, migration and the repatriation of powers from Brussels.
“However, even though the civil service has tried to pick up the slack, the NIAO report is very clear that the absence of an Executive at Stormont has had a major impact on Northern Ireland, and that with regard to devolved matters - ‘Northern Ireland is not well prepared for leaving the EU without a deal.’
“There should be very real concern - even if there is little real surprise – at the report’s conclusion that ‘The lack of clarity so far on the shape of an exit deal and a clear way forward inevitably means that Northern Ireland is limited in terms of the practical preparations it can make.’
“We are due to leave the EU in five months’ time and it is little short of scandalous that we do not have a local Executive giving direction to the civil service and pressing Northern Ireland’s case in London and Brussels as part of these negotiations. The people of Northern Ireland deserve much better than this.”