Ulster Unionist peer, Lord Empey, who was one of the Ulster Unionist Party`s lead negotiators at the Belfast Agreement, said:
“In a recent article in the Irish Times newspaper, Lord David Trimble, who along with the late John Hume was a key architect of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, makes a compelling case that the actions of both the UK Government and the EU amounts to a serious breach of the Agreement that both proclaim to be protecting.
“Yet again, both London and Brussels steadfastly refuse to talk to the individuals who negotiated the Agreement. Had they done so, the folly of their actions could have been avoided.
“My colleague and former MEP, Jim Nicholson, described the Protocol as 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' and I fully agree with him. Workable alternatives are and were available, but Northern Ireland has been used as a bargaining chip from the start of the withdrawal process in 2016. The Ulster Unionist Party has updated its proposals (attached) but what is lacking is the political will in London and Brussels to stop the process of using sticking plasters to fix problems on a day-to-day basis and realise that the Protocol is fundamentally flawed in principle and undermines the Belfast Agreement. Northern Ireland has moved from being a fully integrated component of the UK's internal market to having something akin to 'associate membership' to which brutal conditions apply.
“There has been widespread and, as far as I can see, universal unionist opposition to the Protocol. But, sadly, that was not always the case. The border in the Irish Sea is a self-inflicted wound because on the day that Boris Johnson proposed it to the EU, the first people to back him were Arlene Foster and her 10 Westminster MPs. On 2nd October 2019, when the Prime Minister unveiled his plans to saw off this part of the United Kingdom from Great Britain, Mrs Foster described his plans as 'a serious and sensible way forward'. Boris Johnson can therefore claim that at that stage, he did have unionist consent for the Irish Sea border!
“While Mrs Foster and her colleagues try to wriggle out of their complicity, their Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson MP admitted on 18th October 2019, one day after Boris had done the deal with Brussels, that the DUP had given ‘the Prime Minister as much latitude in the negotiations as possible by saying that we would accept regulatory alignment for a period with the EU, but the safeguard was that the Assembly would be able to vote to change that arrangement if it was seen to be damaging to the economy.'
“Mr Wilson therefore conceded that the DUP accepted a Regulatory Border in the Irish Sea, despite repeated statements that they would never do so, and he justifies their actions by a reference to the Northern Ireland Assembly being able to vote to change that arrangement. What Sammy fails to point out is that at the time Boris Johnson got DUP support, there was no Assembly functioning as it was suspended.
“The DUP's actions were reckless and have done untold constitutional and economic damage to Northern Ireland. Clearly the DUP were no match for the Prime Minister. He ran rings around them, and today Mrs Foster is in no position to lead unionism out of the mess that she and her colleagues created.”
Notes to Editors:
1 February 2021 - UUP Practical Solutions Paper:
February 2019 – UUP Alternative Ways Ahead: