Question Time: Call for politicians to prepare for Irish border poll to avoid another 'referendum shambles'

Question Time panel

A Question Time audience member has called on NI first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster (L) and Michelle O'Neil (R) to prepare for an Irish border poll - Credit: Twitter/BBC

A Question Time audience member has called on politicians to prepare for a border poll in Northern Ireland "even if it isn't for another ten years".

The audience member told Northern Ireland first and deputy first ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neil that Stormont had a lot to learn from the "shambles of the Brexit referendum".

Discussing the Northern Ireland Protocol, the guest said: "The key is to make the protocol work for the here and now but also I think one of the key things is we have to plan for this day coming

"This referendum, because we have to learn from the shambles that was the Brexit referendum.

"We have to make sure that any unity referendum is not like the Brexit referendum and people know they have a clear and concise knowledge of what it is they are voting for.

"We need to make sure and if the referendum isn't for another ten years we need to start planning now."

This comes as Northern Ireland supermarkets report experiencing food shortages caused by new Brexit border restrictions and the impacts of Covid-19.

The UK’s largest supermarkets have also warned the government of “significant disruption to food supplies” to Northern Ireland because of “unworkable” post-Brexit border arrangements, the FT reports.

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In a letter by the chief executives of Sainsbury’s, M&S, Tesco, Asda, Iceland Foods and Co-operative Group, as well as chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, ministers were told that it was “essential we find a long-term solution, agreed with the EU”, before the end of the grace period. “We cannot stress enough that we need time to find and implement that solution.”

Stormont's agriculture minister Edwin Poots added to concerns when he warned hospitals and schools would run out of food once the Brexit grace period allowing retailers to move products between Great Britain and Northern Ireland more freely comes to an end of March 31.

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Poots said: "It was made very clear to us by the suppliers to both hospitals and schools that if the current arrangement for supermarkets isn’t extended in a few months’ time that they will not be able to supply our hospitals and schools with food."

“That is a major crisis and I have raised this with Michael Gove."

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