28 July 2017
DUP Commons Leader Nigel Dodds has rejected the prospect of a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit, stressing that Northern Ireland’s place in an independent United Kingdom will not be jeopardised by any solution found to challenges facing our land frontier with the Republic of Ireland.
DUP Deputy Leader, Leader of the DUP Parliamentary Party, Spokesman on Reform and Constitutional issues and Foreign Affairs
Commenting after the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar signaled a change in stance on issue of the border, Mr Dodds said:
“This apparent hardening of attitudes within the Irish Government is untimely and unhelpful. The DUP will not tolerate a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit that makes it more difficult to live, work and travel between different parts of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has already reiterated this. At Westminster we will continue to use the influence of our 10 MPs to ensure that respect for the integrity of the UK remains at the core of the negotiations process.
The result of the General Election proved that an overwhelming number of people in Northern Ireland value our place in the Union and the social and economic links that brings with it. Great Britain is the largest marketplace for local goods and services produced in Northern Ireland. This accounts for 73% of trade flows in and out of Belfast Harbour. In terms of manufacturing, the 2015 NI Manufacturing Sales and Exports Survey found that sales to GB were worth six times (£8.3 billion) more than those to the Republic of Ireland (£1.4 billion) A border on the Irish Sea may give the Republic of Ireland a special economic status within Northern Ireland but the heavy price would be new barriers to trade in the UK for firms in our Province. Indeed the fact that Mr Coveney has moved toward this approach will be as worrying for Irish beef producers as it is for NI dairy processors. In 2016 almost 40% of all Irish exports went to the UK, including 49% of all beef.
The Irish Government has every right to advocate for their economy and citizens in the ongoing talks; however it is wrong that peace in Northern Ireland should be exploited in this way. The suggestion that unmanned technology could somehow spark a return to violence is not one that a majority of people on either side of the border can countenance. Irrespective of what side of the referendum result they stand it is time for all sides and all political parties to call out this type of scare-tactic for what it is.
It may be the case that this latest change in tact is more about internal Fine Gael positioning ahead of new Irish elections than actually finding a practical solution. This is not the first time the Irish Government has played high wire politics with the challenges facing Northern Ireland. Mr Coveney’s comments also come hot on the tail of a previous unwise intervention on the issue of the Irish language. This is unhelpful toward progressing ongoing talks aimed at restoring devolution at Stormont. I would strongly urge the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to rethink his current stance, stop playing to his own audience, and approach all of these issues with a new spirit of cooperation.”