Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has criticised remarks from Sinn Fein representatives that Brexit could undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Mr Nicholson said:
“Along with Ian Paisley and John Hume I helped secure the PEACE funds in 1994, after the ceasefires, which by the end of the current funding period will have seen over €2billion in extra funding come in to Northern Ireland.
“These funds have done a tremendous amount of work in promoting peace-building and cross-community engagement over the past two decades. It is vital that similar support continues, from both the UK Government and the European Union post-Brexit, and I believe there can be political will within the 27 remaining EU Member States and the UK Government to secure this.
“It is also vital that the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is kept as open and frictionless as possible, and this will be a particular concern for those living in border areas.
“Some – including Sinn Fein - are trying to say the Belfast Agreement would be undermined by Brexit. This is simply not the case. The Belfast Agreement cannot be cherry-picked. It enshrined the principle of consent, which means that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom for as long as its people want it to remain so. Furthermore, in January 2017 the UK Supreme Court confirmed that the Belfast Agreement related to Northern Ireland's place in the UK, not its place in the EU.
“Therefore measures that would introduce an internal UK border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would actually be in breach of the Agreement.
“Furthermore, it is very dangerous when public representatives suggest Brexit could lead to violence. Sinn Fein representatives would do well to think before making such claims. This type of dangerous rhetoric risks emboldening those who wish to plunge our country back in to dark times.
“I will continue to engage with European leaders in Brussels and Strasbourg to ensure Northern Ireland’s voice is heard in Brexit discussions, and to push for a Brexit deal that is achievable, workable and does not compromise Northern Ireland’s position as an integral part of the United Kingdom.”