Northern Ireland will not be dowry for EU to deliver Brexit – UUP leader

Northern Ireland will not be a dowry to the EU for the delivery of Brexit, the Ulster Unionist leader said.

Robin Swann claimed the Irish border backstop proposal which would effectively see the country continue to follow European trade regulations drove a coach and horses through the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

He said Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU negotiator Michel Barnier should honour the principle of consent by which Northern Ireland’s constitutional status cannot be changed unless its people should decide so.

Mr Swann said: “The DUP’s inept handling of Brexit right from before the referendum has now led us back to the Northern Ireland-only backstop that they first missed in 2017, despite my warnings.

“I say to London, Brussels and Dublin that Northern Ireland will not be a dowry to the EU for the delivery of Brexit.

Robin Swann
Mr Swann warned that the backstop plans countered the 1998 Belfast Agreement (Tom Honan/PA)

“And Leo Varadkar and Michel Barnier should go back to the negotiating table and respect and honour the principle of consent as it is actually written and not as they wish it was.”

He told a party meeting in East Belfast he acknowledged many of his members who were strong Remain advocates during the referendum campaign felt totally “misrepresented” by commentary around support for the backstop.

“There will be many twists and turns before March 29.

“But our focus must remain on making sure there are legal changes made to the Withdrawal Agreement text that acknowledge unionist concerns over the backstop.”

He said leaving the EU without a deal would be detrimental to Northern Ireland.

“Those who are still championing this as a successful outcome should reflect on the immediate consequences for our people and the long-term damage it could cause to our union.”

He added: “The Ulster Unionist Party has been clear that the Prime Minister should not attempt to run down the clock to make this a choice between no deal or a bad deal.”

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