Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has warned that proposals to give the Irish Republic more MEPs to represent Irish passport holders in Northern Ireland, would breach the Belfast Agreement, something MEPs and EU leaders have pledged to protect.
Mr Nicholson said:
“After last week’s embarrassing defeat which saw Sinn Fein’s so-called “special status” proposal roundly rejected by MEPs, it is clear that they are desperately trying to make up for lost ground.
“Mr Verhofstadt’s throwaway line about giving the Irish Republic extra MEPs post-Brexit to represent Irish passport holders in the United Kingdom, is a ridiculous proposal for a number of reasons.
"Firstly, there is no precedent for this. As was pointed out by the Chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, when we leave the European Union, the United Kingdom will be a ‘third country’. MEPs from the Irish Republic represent their respective constituencies - it would be legally dubious for them to have a constituency outside of the European Union.
“But more significantly, it would be a clear breach of the Belfast Agreement. In both the negotiating mandate of the European Union, and in the Parliament’s own priorities for the negotiation, there is a commitment to protecting the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in its entirety. So this proposal would actually breach the EU’s own red lines.
“I have written to Mr Verhofstadt outlining these concerns. Northern Ireland is not a bargaining chip. Perhaps Mr Verhofstadt could use the summer break to read up on the very same Belfast Agreement which he has pledged to protect.”