25 November 2017
Speech by Diane Dodds MEP to the 2017 DUP Annual Conference
Member of the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Substitute member of the EU Fisheries Committee
Party Chairman, colleagues, friends. Thank you.
It's good to be back at conference.
In June 2016 the British people voted decisively to leave the European Union and in June 2017 they chose to elect politicians ready to implement their wishes.
Here in Northern Ireland our Party recorded its best ever election result.
We are humbled that 292,316 people chose to return 10 DUP MPs to the House of Commons.
At a time of unprecedented change and opportunity for our nation, the votes of Northern Ireland now hold the balance of power.
While others run from their responsibilities and don't take their seats at Westminster –
this party will act both in the national interest and in the interest of Northern Ireland.
Our United Kingdom is a great nation. Throughout the course of history the people of our four countries have stood side by side against tyranny, have been a shining beacon of democratic values and have built the 6th largest economy in the world.
The success and security of the Union continues to be our guiding star.
Our convictions as Unionists are not limited to this side of the Irish sea.
Any Brexit deal must benefit all regions of the UK. And it must protect, renew and enhance the historic ties between us.
Brexit gives Northern Ireland an opportunity to revitalise and grow our position within the UK single market.
The European Union has prioritised the issue of Northern Ireland in the first phase of the negotiations. It says it wants clarity over the border with the Republic of Ireland.
Everyone says they do not want a hard border on the island of Ireland.
But let us be clear.
There will be no internal borders within the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland’s Brexit solution will be the United Kingdom’s Brexit solution. We will leave the Customs Union and the Single Market alongside Great Britain.
Friends, this is not just a constitutional reality but an economic necessity.
72% of trade in and out of Belfast Harbour is with Great Britain.
And almost two thirds of local agri-food produce is sold within the UK.
Cutting Northern Ireland adrift from Great Britain at the behest of Sinn Fein’s fantasy economics would be an act of economic vandalism.
It would jeopardise jobs and growth. It would hit household incomes. And it would risk leaving young people excluded and marginalised. This would be the biggest threat to the peace process.
Conference, the EU said it would be 'flexible and imaginative' on the border.
It now claims a hard border will only be prevented if Northern Ireland stays in the Customs Union or Single Market.
That we must respect the integrity of their market yet uproot the integrity of our own.
This is not creative. It is coercive.
Northern Ireland will be an integral part of a strong and independent UK.
That is why challenges to cross-border trade can only be addressed when we move to phase two of the negotiations on our future trade relationship.
In the meantime the EU is using our circumstances to extract as much cash from the
United Kingdom as possible.
The same broken record – money, money and more money.
We are pleased that all sides report that progress has been made on the Common Travel Area.
It is in our mutual interests to get this work over the line as quickly as possible.
There will be a seamless border for movement of people between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
Brussels has made a positive contribution to progress through PEACE programmes.
However its final act should not be to overreach into our sovereign affairs.
The ghosts of Brussels will not haunt Northern Ireland’s dreams or aspirations.
I have said many times that we are leaving the European Union – we are not leaving Europe.
In the past the UK has never been slow to defend our allies.
In the future we want to ensure our common security - working together to fight crime and terrorism.
Local businesses, students and our world-class researchers should continue to have opportunities to link up with their neighbours.
We could still participate in some EU programmes after we leave – but the terms must be right.
The days... of Brussels... picking our pockets... are over.
Recognising the importance of access for local exports we want to agree a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with Brussels.
We have a positive vision of a new relationship. We are not backward in our ambitions
As we the leave the European Union there must be a clear destination.
We must avoid cliff-edges and businesses should only have to adapt to one set of rules.
A strictly time-limited implementation period can give certainty. But this must not be a transition to more talks.
Regardless of whether we access the Single Market or work with the Customs Union during this time, the job of securing new global free trade deals must begin.
As the sun sets on our exit, there will be no tolerance of Brussels delays.
The road ahead requires key decisions. Decisions which we are not afraid to face head on.
With Brexit comes opportunity.
For the first time in a generation we will be able to shape the laws facing our farmers.
Plans for a new British Agricultural Policy are underway and this Party will work at Westminster to ensure that we continue to support productive farming.
We will also take back control of British territorial waters.
Come rain, hail or shine the DUP will fight for a fair deal for our farmers and fishermen.
As we prepare for the future there must be fresh emphasis on skills.
Providing our young people with the skills-sets to meet Northern Ireland’s needs.
However we understand the importance of outside labour when roles cannot be filled.
Those who come to our shores to work and make a positive contribution are welcome.
It is not a question of stopping migration but controlling it.
Moving from a system that is rights-based to one that is needs-based.
This Party takes it commitments to the electorate seriously.
At no point in recent history have the stakes been so high.
It is key that for the first time in a generation our Province demands an unmatched influence at Westminster.
Last year I told you that when the Democratic Unionist Party is strong, Northern Ireland is strong.
It is up to us to ensure that Northern Ireland rises to the challenge.
We must work to ensure that Brexit delivers for every part of Northern Ireland.
This Party has done it before and we can do it again.
I am up for the fight – I know you are up the fight – and with confidence for the future
I know we can succeed.