Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Government apology to Sinn Fein MP after secret visit by Brexit minister

A brief and unannounced visit by the British government’s Brexit Secretary David Davis to Armagh on Monday last, resulted in the government apologizing to Sinn Fein’s Mickey Brady for its failure to notify him of the trip.

Although the Northern Ireland Office had been informed ahead of the visit, there was no publicity or media access during Mr Davis’ two-hour tour of the area during which he visited a former customs post on the Armagh/Monaghan border and Linwoods food processing company in Armagh, which recently announced 90 job cuts from its workforce.

The Brexit Minister’s visit was criticized by Sinn Fein when it emerged the trip did not adhere to protocol as the area’s MP Mickey Brady was not informed. The Sinn Fein MP accused Mr Davis of being “afraid to face the truth about Brexit” by failing to meet with him.  SDLP MLA Justin McNulty described the visit as “a cheap stunt” and said local business, community and political representatives could have “articulated the views and fears of the people living along this border” and the impact Brexit will have on their lives, had Mr Davis chosen to meet with them.

“Brexit is the greatest political, economic and social crises facing this island since partition and for the UK Brexit Secretary to pop-over and have a sneaky look at what a border crossing looks like in Ireland shows the real distain both he and his government have for the people here,” Mr McNulty said. And he called for the government to “urgently clarify” its plans for the border post-Brexit.

Concluding his whistle-stop visit, Mr Davis posted on his Twitter account reiterating the government’s determination to avoid a hard border: “As we leave the EU it’s essential both the UK and EU do what it takes to keep the Border, which I saw this morning, free from physical infrastructure.  We are determined to get this agreed by October,” he tweeted.

On Tuesday a spokeswoman for the British government’s department for exiting the European Union apologized to Mr Brady for the lack of notification, saying, “This was an administrative oversight for which we are happy to apologise”.