Attaining EU special status for Northern Ireland post-Brexit will be top of the SDLP's agenda in negotiations after the election, party leader Colum Eastwood has said.

Mr Eastwood warned that Brexit was a "seismic event on the political Richter scale" and said its "aftershocks will shape the islands of Ireland and Britain for years to come".

"Its magnitude cannot be underestimated," added Mr Eastwood as he launched the SDLP's policy document, Securing our Place in Europe, in Newry.

Mr Eastwood said that special status means the vote in Northern Ireland last June is respected.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU Referendum by a majority of 56% to 44%.

"Special status means that the political authority of devolved institutions are respected, giving them the opportunity to shape Brexit in their respective regions.

"Special status means that our economy, our society and our political agreements are protected. It means that we retain the four freedoms of the European Union and that we do not see the return of border checks on this island.

"Special status means that what we have, we hold," added Mr Eastwood.

He accused Sinn Féin and the DUP of seeming "happy to allow the British government enforce direct rule after the election".

He said that Secretary of State James Brokenshire "does not speak and cannot speak" for the people of Northern Ireland.

"Yet Sinn Féin and the DUP are prepared to surrender him that power. The only way to stop that happening is by electing an alternative government on March 2," added Mr Eastwood.

He insisted that Brexit will be top of the SDLP agenda in post-election negotiations.

"It is our number one priority now and it will remain our number one priority," he said.