The Ulster Unionist Party’s Chief Whip, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, has called for the extension of Article 50 to allow time for exploring alternatives which can help resolve the current Brexit chaos.
Steve Aiken MLA said:
“We welcome the DUP U-turn on an extension to Article 50 to allow time to explore alternatives to the Prime Minister’s flawed and rejected deal. Robin Swann MLA and Jim Nicholson MEP have been calling for this for weeks against fierce opposition from the DUP.
“The debacle of the Prime Minister’s failed Brexit strategy has been cruelly highlighted yet again. The failure of the DUP to deliver any coherent alternative, while antagonising Northern Ireland’s business and farming community, has added further to the rapidly growing disillusionment that we all have in our parliamentary system itself.
“Today we also have the NIO, DEFRA and HMRC briefing on a tariff free North/South border for EU goods, while our own businesses may be subject to the full range of customs checks. It is very clear that we are, in many ways, in very uncharted and challenging waters.
“In the absence of any leadership or vision from HMG, the DUP or the EU, we reiterate our call for an extension of Article 50 to allow time for exploring alternatives – including, clearly, establishing a ‘common goods area’ – an idea that has already been accepted within today’s announcement on the tariff free border.
“Secondly, let us accept - as Parliament has overwhelmingly already done so twice - that the backstop is dead and that Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have, as we have said on numerous occasions, overplayed their hand and delivered the exact opposite of what they desired.
“We need a new Withdrawal Agreement, and if it is to be based on ‘securing’ the Belfast Agreement, let us focus on going back to the factory settings of the Belfast Agreement, getting the institutions to work properly, and drop the pretence of pretending the Backstop was anything other than an attempt to impose joint authority by another name.”