Steve Aiken MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Chief Whip has commented on the situation facing the UK following the Salzburg Brexit negotiations.
Steve Aiken MLA said:
“There was little sign of any harmonious sounds of music or much else from Salzburg this week. For those of us who are immersed in the minutia of the BREXIT negotiations it was difficult to see how the EU 27 could, or would even be willing, to publicly break from their positions. Equally, for the United Kingdom, it is beyond understanding that the EU would in effect be advocating the abrogation of sovereignty over our nation in pursuit of a point of principle (something that the EU has never resolutely been wedded too in the past). By way of illustration can you imagine France agreeing to internal ‘border’ between mainland France and Corsica? The mere prospect of a referendum on Catalonia independence drove Spain to jail democratic politicians; and yet the EU expects the UK to acquiesce, without demure, in imposing internal border controls.
“Recently I attended a conference in Oxford which was addressed by a very senior ex-EU president; the crux of his message was whatever happens there are two incontrovertible truths.
“Firstly, that regardless of the public posturing, the EU needs the UK, and the UK needs the EU. We are living in a highly unstable world and security, in its widest sense, is at stake. British troops in Estonia, the British Banking sector, our high tech R&D are all elements of the UK’s capability that are essential for Europe’s needs. Equally, that the UK needs the collaboration of the EU for our own security, markets for our goods, and collaborative partners to help challenge the growing economic dominance of China and waywardness of the US.
“The Second truth is that the UK is very probably leaving the EU, and regardless of when, it is in everyone’s interest that the final agreement leaves both parties without rancour and ready to face our challenges cooperatively.
“Also at the conference, the view was expressed privately, that the border issue, which, let’s be honest, was originally ratcheted up as a negotiating lever by Barnier, has now spun out of control. It has suited political interests, most notably Sinn Fein (who see it as a fast track to a Border Poll), and surprisingly to some, by Fine Gael, to ‘tweak the lion’s tail’.
“Unfortunately, the intransigence shown by the EU over the border issue, which has been exacerbated by the approach by the Taoiseach & in particular by the Tánaiste (which to some in Brussels just seemed like a smart negotiating tactic) is rapidly undermining what confidence many people had in the British/Irish relationship.
“Bearing in mind the ‘grand strategic’ ideal of, at the end of this long BREXIT process, that the UK and the EU will be reconciled; you begin to wonder how the EU and in particular the Irish, hope that advocating an aquatic border achieves anything. This is particularly puzzling in that the UK’s exit from the EU next March is only the end of the first phase of a long and complex transition process that will take anything up to a decade to achieve. To, (to use the hackneyed phrase), ‘poison the well’, now makes little or no sense, unless of course of the current Irish/EU backstop position is just another of those unfortunate ‘laws of unintended consequences’ and miscommunication that seem the norm in the international system today.
“I don’t do counterfactuals, but you do wonder if we would be in this position now if Enda Kenny and Charlie Flanagan still held the reins in Dublin; but in fairness, we wouldn’t be in this position either if we hadn’t all become the victims of the Conservative Party’s 40-year civil war over Europe. The UK and the EU deserve pragmatic and sensible solutions keeping the eye firmly on the future, something even a song from the Von Trapp family couldn’t help deliver this week.”