Ex-Labour MP Kate Hoey – one of the party’s most prominent Brexiteers – has been criticised for saying that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal “has destabilised Northern Ireland”.
Street disorder has flared in various parts of Northern Ireland for more than a week. At its heart is loyalist anger at post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created economic barriers between the region and the rest of the UK.
In the latest scenes on Wednesday night at the Lanark Way peace wall gates in west Belfast, several hundred people gathered on each side from 5pm which escalated to “significant disorder”.
Multiple petrol bombs and missiles, including fireworks and heavy masonry, were thrown – and authorities have said it is “clear there was a degree of organisation” of the violence.
Responding to the violence on Twitter, Hoey – the former MP for Vauxhall in south London – said the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit deal “has destabilised Northern Ireland”.
“Placing a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland without the consent of the pro-Union community has been the trigger for this unacceptable violence,” she said.
But commentators were quick to point out that Hoey had been blithely optimistic about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland.
One eagle-eyed Twitter user shared an article written by Hoey for the Daily Telegraph in May 2016, a month before the EU referendum, headlined: ‘Brexit won’t hurt Northern Ireland at all – instead, it will brighten its future’.
“Northern Ireland has much to gain from Brexit,” Hoey wrote. “It is no longer a significant net beneficiary from EU funds, and agriculture’s support through the EU’s single farm payment is on a declining trend.
“Ulster would gain from the repatriation of decision making on agriculture, fisheries and industrial support to Stormont. The long lines of tied-up boats in Ulster’s fishing ports make me think that better ways of managing fishing will be possible outside the EU.
She continued: “Northern Ireland’s tiny representation in Brussels would be replaced by a much more direct influence in Westminster, which in any case has always been vastly more important as a source of financial support than the EU.
“Like elsewhere in the UK Northern Ireland’s many exporters are globally-oriented and are naturally turning to fast growing world markets rather than the stagnating continental EU. Several major companies, including Wrightbus, which makes London’s Routemaster buses, are active supporters of Brexit.”
Hoey added: “A vote to leave the EU offers the opportunity to make Northern Ireland a more outward-looking place, recapturing the spirit of enterprise that allowed it to trade successfully with the rest of the world during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
“A bright future awaits us outside the EU and I am confident Northern Ireland people will seize the opportunity and vote Leave.”