Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann MLA led a delegation to meet European Parliament Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, in Parliament Buildings today. The Ulster Unionist team included Lord Empey, Chief Whip Steve Aiken OBE MLA, Doug Beattie MC MLA and Councillor Lindsay Millar from the Office of Jim Nicholson MEP.
Following the meeting, Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann MLA, said:
“When we met Guy Verhofstadt we told him that it was a shame and disgrace that there was no Executive in place to have a Northern Ireland voice to give direct input into the current discussions. This is a crucial time in our history and it`s a dereliction of political responsibility that others sacrifice the wellbeing and prosperity of all our people, in favour of selfish political interests.
“As Mr Verhofstadt said there can be unique solutions for Northern Ireland but we are clear that special status for Northern Ireland is not an option. It may be uncomfortable for Mr Verhofstadt and his colleagues to hear this, but I told him that one solution that needs to be seriously considered is for the Republic of Ireland to apply for special status with the EU to recognise its unique position in having a land border with the United Kingdom. Where there`s a will there`s a way, but the EU can`t run away from its responsibilities.
“We made it very clear that with regard to sovereignty, Northern Ireland can`t remain part of the single market or the customs union if the rest of the UK is outside it. To suggest otherwise will pull apart the Belfast Agreement and undermine the foundations of the relative peace that we have today. The Belfast Agreement was based on the principle of consent, and whilst Mr Verhofstadt may have different priorities in terms of the preservation of the single market, my priority is the maintenance of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland and to preserve the principle of consent. We cannot and will not allow others to use the current negotiations to dilute Northern Ireland`s status within the United Kingdom.”