10 November 2017
DUP Parliamentary leader and North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds has rejected the suggestion by the EU that a hard border can only be avoided if the UK or Northern Ireland continue to abide by the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union after Brexit.
DUP Deputy Leader, Leader of the DUP Parliamentary Party, Spokesman on Reform and Constitutional issues and Foreign Affairs
Criticising the claim, which was made in a leaked European Commission position paper, Mr Dodds said:
“These comments display an unwillingness on the part of the EU to engage in a meaningful fashion in relation to the border. Northern Ireland will not be separated from the rest of the UK as a result of Brexit. Brussels must realise this and accept that progress will not be achieved through bully-boy tactics.
The Prime Minister has said that the UK will leave the Single Market and Customs Union. This applies to Northern Ireland as an integral part of the Union. A seamless border cannot be achieved by simply dressing up the status quo. Brussels should not claim to support ‘flexible and imaginative solutions’ yet insist that nothing can change. This does not come close to showing special consideration.
The Secretary of State moved earlier this week to reiterate that Brexit must respect the integrity of the UK. This is welcome. The DUP will not accept a deal that imposes barriers to Northern Ireland’s position within the UK single market. Great Britain is the primary marketplace for local produce, accounting for over 72% of trade flows. It would be wrong for Northern Ireland to place barriers to trade with the rest of the UK with a population of over 65 million people in order to facilitate trade with the Republic of Ireland who have less than 5 million people. Tying our Province to EU rules to placate the Republic of Ireland while the other regions follow a different path would devastate the local economy.
Although any solution must respect our overriding ties with Great Britain we do not believe this has to be to the detriment of free and frictionless trade across the border. The right balance can be struck. However this requires all sides to get real about Northern Ireland’s direction of travel. Of course the best means of addressing all of these issues is for Brussels to end its unjustifiable block on opening talks on future UK-EU relations.’’