Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has called on the Government to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom and its own single market as Brexit talks continue.
Mr Nicholson pointed out that keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market and/or customs union with the rest of the UK outside would breach the Belfast Agreement and damage the local economy.
Mr Nicholson said:
“The European Union and the Irish Government have talked about the need for the Belfast Agreement to be protected in all its parts. This is entirely inconsistent with placing an international border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom - which is what would happen if Northern Ireland were to remain in the single market and/or customs union with the rest of the UK outside.
“Both the UK Government and the European Union agreed in December for regulatory alignment in a number of areas to avoid the need for a hard border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. This was also on the understanding that any such arrangement should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, not just Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland cannot afford to be separated from its most important market - the UK single market. Great Britain accounts for around 60% of all external sales.
“The Government should also be reminded that no internal UK border was UK Government policy even before the last election and subsequent parliamentary deals. In her Lancaster House speech, the Prime Minister made clear that Brexit could not be used as an excuse to break up the Union, or to cut us off from the rest of the United Kingdom.
“Unionists will watch developments in the coming days and weeks with great interest. There are some who see Brexit as an opportunity to weaken Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom. There are others who see cutting off Northern Ireland as a clean way to make Brexit easier.
“It is up to the Government to ensure it stands by its commitments that the integrity of the United Kingdom, and its own single market, will not be compromised.”