THE return of powersharing in Northern Ireland raises “significant questions” about Scotland not being able to rejoin the single market in the EU, Stephen Flynn has said.

The SNP’s Westminster leader welcomed the return of the Stormont Assembly and Executive as “a positive step forward for all the people of Northern Ireland”.

He added that the restored government across the Irish Sea will operate “with the full economic benefits of access to the European single market” and that this raises a critical choice ahead of the next General Election.

Flynn said that despite Scotland voting to remain in the EU, like Northern Ireland, businesses north of the Border are still suffering the consequences of the UK leaving the bloc’s single market.

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He argued that the SNP are now the only party seeking to join the EU and “standing up for Scotland’s interests”.

During the Brexit divorce talks, former prime minister Boris Johnson negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU in order to ensure the continued free movement of goods on the island of Ireland.

However, this led to the requirement for checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and was deeply unpopular with unionists, who described it as an Irish Sea border.

Stormont reconvened after DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson reached an agreement with the UK that he insists removes the Irish Sea trading border, restoring Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

"The return of devolved government in Stormont over the weekend is a positive step forward for all the people of Northern Ireland,” Flynn said.

“Credit is due to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for leading his party back into power-sharing and I want to warmly congratulate the new First Minister Michelle O'Neill and deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly.

The National:

"The return of the restored Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive again raises a very significant question across these islands because, of course, the restored government in Northern Ireland will be operating with the full economic benefits of access to the European single market.

"The very real and very legitimate question is why - 12 miles across the Irish Sea - businesses in Scotland are being denied the same deal and denied the same benefits.

“Northern Ireland voted to stay within the European Union and it is getting its wishes, however, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to reject Brexit but we are living with its economic damage every single day.”

Flynn said that the SNP are now the only party prepared to stand up for Scotland and Scottish business to have “full access to the European single market”.

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He also challenged Keir Starmer and the Labour Party on the issue of access to the single market.

In recent weeks, senior Labour figures, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and potential Welsh first minister Jeremy Miles, have stated their support for a return to the EU single market.

Flynn added: “He [Starmer] has spent the last week trying to cosy up to big business, evidenced by Labour's latest u-turn in now supporting the Tories in failing to cap bankers' bonuses.

"However, Sir Keir needs to wake up to the fact that no Westminster party can credibly claim to support business or support economic growth if they are not prepared to offer a way out of the deep damage Brexit continues to inflict.

The National:

“If Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party fails to offer a return to, at the very least, the EU single market, then the total sum of what they are offering is further decline in broken, Brexit Britain.

"It is clearer than ever that the SNP is the only party that is standing up for Scotland’s values, unequivocally advocating for Scotland to re-join the EU and single market so that we may once again reap the many benefits of EU membership."

It comes after Northern Ireland’s new First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she believed a referendum on Irish unity would be held in the next decade.