18 September 2019
DUP MEP Diane Dodds has spoken out on the European Parliament’s failure to give equal weight to the voice of the unionist community in Northern Ireland and its view on the backstop. Speaking in a debate today in Strasbourg on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU Mrs Dodds said:
Member of the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Substitute member of the EU Fisheries Committee
“Firstly, I would like to reaffirm my strong belief that an orderly withdrawal process is the best and preferred way forward for the European Union, the United Kingdom and to be specific for our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.
I have always believed that it is in all of our interests that we achieve this and will continue to work to this end.
However, that withdrawal agreement must not damage the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom and Northern Irelands place within it.
The agreement must also meet basic democratic tests. The backstop endangers these fundamental principles.
This house has confirmed on a number of occasions its adherence to the Belfast Agreement. Indeed, it has been referenced by President Juncker and Mr Barnier this morning.
One of the core principles of the Agreement is ‘parity of esteem’ between the two traditions in Northern Ireland, meaning that citizens from both the unionist and nationalist traditions are treated and heard equally.
Just last week, the former Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, an architect of the Belfast Agreement, spoke out on the importance of the principle of Parity of Esteem and is quoted as saying that, “Any solution has to include the unionist people because parity of esteem in the Good Friday Agreement is both sides.”
Not a single member of the Northern Ireland Assembly from the Unionist tradition supports the backstop. Every unionist party which stood in the EU elections did so on a platform of rejecting the backstop. A recent opinion poll shows that 81% of the Unionist community are firmly against the backstop.
There is a democratic problem with the backstop and you, Mr Barnier, cannot wash your hands of it.
Northern Ireland would be subject to huge swathes of legislation with no control or representation. The backstop simply does not have the support of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland.
It is clear that the voice of the Unionist community is not being given equal weight in this resolution and therefore is in direct contravention of the principles of the agreement you are trying so hard to uphold.
The European Parliament is the directly elected chamber of the European Institutions.
Therefore, I urge you to reassess this resolution before bringing it to the house in order to send a message to both communities in Northern Ireland that their voices and opinions are valued and hold equal weight within the European institutions.”