Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has warned EU leaders that Northern Ireland’s constitutional position will not be decided by Brussels or Dublin.
The comments come as the European Commission today published a paper on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Nicholson said:
“Neither Brussels nor Dublin speaks for Northern Ireland. The constitutional position of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom cannot and will not be diluted or changed by Mr Barnier and the European Union. Michel Barnier and his colleagues need to start listening and stop cherry-picking elements of the Belfast Agreement. The principle of consent underpins the Agreement and I warn him, that if he is not careful, he runs the risk of destabilising relationships across these islands.
“No one is in any doubt that as the only part of the United Kingdom to share a land border with the European Union, Northern Ireland faces specific challenges in terms of Brexit. It is welcome that all parties involved - the Government, the EU, Belfast and Dublin - do not want a hard border.
“However it is bizarre that, on the one hand, this paper says there must be a flexible solution that avoids a physical border, but on the other hand insists that it is only up to the UK Government to provide such a solution. Michel Barnier and his colleagues are sitting on their hands, which is a pathetic position to take given the issues at stake.
“Some in Dublin and Brussels would like to see the border moved to the Irish Sea. Not only would this have serious negative consequences for Northern Ireland’s economy, placing an international border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, it would also be a clear breach of the principle of consent and the Belfast Agreement that EU negotiators have pledged to protect. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republic of Ireland needs to urgently seek special status.
“I am confident that a solution which respects the integrity of the United Kingdom, while avoiding a hard border with the Irish Republic, can be agreed - but this will require positive engagement from Brussels, rather than ducking the issues, abdicating responsibility and dismissing any proposal from the UK Government.
“It again underlines the critical need to have a Belfast voice within the discussions and now is the time for Sinn Fein to drop its self-created red lines.”