Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has welcomed the decision by MEPs to reject Sinn Fein’s ‘special status’ proposals.
Just days after Sinn Fein pledged to continue a ‘diplomatic offensive’ on the issue in Strasbourg, the proposal - tabled as an amendment to a motion on the European Commission’s 2018 Work Programme, was rejected by a large majority.
Mr Nicholson said:
“It is clear that proposals by Sinn Fein and others for ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland within the EU are not designed to benefit Northern Ireland or the local economy. Rather, it is about pulling Northern Ireland away from the United Kingdom.
“In particular, keeping Northern Ireland in the EU, Customs Union or Single Market with the rest of the United Kingdom outside would essentially draw an internal UK border down the Irish Sea, making us second class UK citizens. It also would hurt our local economy by erecting barriers to trade with our most important market which is Great Britain.
“Europe is and always will be a friend of Northern Ireland. Indeed, MEPs and leaders across the EU are aware of the specific challenges we face as the only part of the United Kingdom to share a land border with the EU after Brexit. However there is certainly a sense that Sinn Fein are merely using Brexit as an excuse to try to pull Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.
“I am glad that MEPs from across the house sensibly rejected Sinn Fein’s propaganda. Just days ago, Sinn Fein were talking about continuing their ‘diplomatic offensive’ for special status in Strasbourg. It is now clear that offensive has been a failure.
“With Brexit negotiations already underway, it is important that we pull together to get the best deal for the entire United Kingdom, and I will continue my engagement with EU leaders and Government Ministers to ensure Northern Ireland’s voice is heard.”