28 February 2018
Responding to the publication of a draft legal text put forward by EU Brexit negotiators in relation to Northern Ireland, DUP MEP Diane Dodds said:
''First of all we must recognise that this text proposed by the EU today is a draft and will be the subject of negotiation to come. However in its draft form it is entirely is unacceptable and represents an act of bad faith on the part of Brussels toward addressing challenges facing the border in a fair and sensible fashion.
The suggestion that Northern Ireland would be an 'autonomous' EU customs territory alongside the Republic of Ireland after Brexit would break up the Union and disadvantage our citizens. It is an aggressive proposal which proves that Brussels is only serious about the parts of the Belfast Agreement that suits its agenda. The principle of consent would be left in tatters.
Under the scenario put forward the UK Government alone would have to square the circle of ensuring that consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland continue to have unfettered access to their primary marketplace despite checks on goods coming and going to Great Britain. That would devastate the local economy, where 72% of trade in and out of Belfast Harbour is to GB and less than one fifth to the EU.
This rolls back on pledges made in December's UK-EU Joint Report, which very clearly set out that the terms of the new overall UK-EU relationship should be the primary and preferable means for ensuring a frictionless border with the Irish Republic.
By ignoring this and focusing only on the backstop 'alignment' option, Brussels has demonstrated not just a lack of ambition but a blatant disregard for due process. It is ironic that while Brussels continues to warn the UK against 'cherry-picking' aspects of EU membership after Brexit that is exactly what it now seeks to do on the border.
It is clear that there would be little to no incentive for Brussels to give ground in talks on future relations if a commitment to the UK following EU rules and regulations well after our exit was granted at this moment. It is imperative that Northern Ireland is not used as a bargaining chip to simply copper-fasten the status quo in this way. That is a threat to a clean and sensible Brexit.”