Ulster Unionist leader, Robin Swann MLA, has stated that Westminster needs to speak up for Northern Ireland in Brexit negotiations as the pressure increases. He has also called on the DUP to make clear what they know about the proposals coming from the government. In last week`s Times newspaper it was claimed that the DUP ‘is being closely consulted over the text by the Department for Exiting the EU.’
Mr Swann said:
“There have been a spate of sporting analogies used to describe the political situation recently, but now is time for Northern Ireland politicians to get out of the changing rooms.
“The continuing lack of an Assembly or Executive sees us voiceless, while others are kicking Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom all around the pitch for their own political advantage, like the proverbial political football.
“It was expected that the Council of Europe meeting this week would see clarity slowly emerge over proposals on how a solution would be found to the United Kingdom`s relationship with the EU, and in turn a practical relationship with the Republic of Ireland.
“However in true Tusk form, he arrived in Dublin to ramp up the political discourse before the real game kicked off, and as the EU team used the financial settlement to apply pressure on the UK, they are now turning to the Irish border issue to apply more.
“And in the meantime, Northern Ireland its businesses and its people are left in limbo.
“Where does the answer lie, is it in 'a customs union' rather than 'the customs union', is it in special status for the Republic of Ireland within the EU, is the solution to come from Dublin rather than Westminster? The Republic of Ireland and its farmers have most to lose if the United Kingdom is not treated in a fair and reasonable way. The grandstanding may feel good to some at the minute but that will soon fade if a sensible deal isn`t reached.
“Given the leverage which the DUP claim they hold over the government, it is incumbent on them to make clear what the government told them about the proposals for dealing with the border. Is it true that the DUP have been closely consulted on the text of documents by the Department for Exiting the EU? If they have, what were they told? Because it must not have matched what was reported in the media, given the tetchy reaction of some former and current DUP politicians last week.
“There has been a lot of unhelpful and frankly intemperate language used over the past few days. It`s time to get down to some real business by discussing facts, not speculation.
“A few months ago Jim Nicholson MEP told Brussels that 'Dublin didn't speak for Belfast'. As the pressure increases I hope that Westminster will.
“But as always, the real voice should be ours, and while it looks like the Scottish Tories & SNP have David Davis rewriting the withdrawal bill in favour of more power to devolved institutions, Northern Ireland politicians - many sitting with their kit on and boots laced - are mere spectators and are left shouting from the sidelines. That needs to change”