Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has said that the UK is being held to ransom by the EU in the ongoing saga of Brexit negotiations.
Lord Empey said:
“The totally avoidable Brexit crisis moves on, and we see the sorry spectacle of the international humiliation of the United Kingdom continuing.
“Our country is ridiculed by our opponents and pitied by our friends.
“Brexit is a perfectly legitimate goal, but has been handled dreadfully from the start by our negotiators, who, at every turn, have made foolish decisions. They agreed to the sequencing of the negotiations, putting the border issue and that of finance at the top of the agenda. How can you possibly know what financial contribution to make before you even discuss the future trade relationship? That is where the border question should have been dealt with as well. It’s like saying I am going to buy your house for £X; I haven't seen it yet and don't know what condition it is in, but I am still going to give you £X for it. Who would do that?
“The Backstop has become the latest crisis, putting Northern Ireland in the vice between remain and leave. I regret to have to say again that one year ago the DUP missed the opportunity to prevent the Backstop gaining such power. It is now the EU's principal weapon against the United Kingdom. How did it come to this?
“Arlene Foster and her colleagues never appreciated the significance of the Report on the negotiations published on 8th December last year. She stated at that time –
‘Northern Ireland will not be separated constitutionally, politically, economically or regulatory from the rest of the United Kingdom and the joint UK-EU report at the conclusion of phase one makes clear that in all circumstances the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market.’
"This very clearly illustrated that she didn't get it. By contrast Robin Swann wrote to the Prime Minister highlighting the matter of regulation. He did get it.
“I foresee little or nothing from Brussels other than words. Many of the people sitting at the EU top table will not even be in office when the time comes for the Backstop to be triggered, so what they say now by way of nice words is meaningless. Next year there are European Parliament elections and the current Commission, and its President Mr Junker, will be gone and not replaced until October/November 2019 at the earliest.
“2019 will be a year in which negotiations will be difficult and it will only be January 2020, when a new Commission is fully established, that real negotiations will begin. That will mean the Backstop will be triggered and the UK will be held to ransom by country after country as they pursue their own interests.
“A truly terrible prospect.”