Any ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union risks “diminishing the integrity of the Union,” Jim Nicholson has said.
The Ulster Unionist MEP has also warned EU leaders against “megaphone diplomacy across the English Channel” in Brexit talks.
Addressing the European Parliament, Mr Nicholson told EU Council president Donald Tusk and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier that politicians in Dublin or Brussels would not determine Northern Ireland’s future.
“Mr Barnier visited the border during his trip to the Republic of Ireland last week, and I took the opportunity in the European Parliament to welcome the fact that at least he is speaking frankly about the challenge all sides will face in finding a solution to the border issue,” Mr Nicholson said.
“So-called ‘special status’ arrangements would risk placing an internal border across the Irish Sea – diminishing the integrity of the Union and placing trade barriers between Northern Ireland and our largest single market for sales, which is Great Britain.
“I also worry about negotiations being done on the airwaves in London and Brussels. I fear we are witnessing megaphone diplomacy across the English Channel.”
Sinn Fein leaders Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald were in Strasbourg earlier this week to urge EU leaders to devise a form of special status for Northern Ireland.
Mr Nicholson’s UUP colleague Danny Kinahan has also expressed concern that special status could lead to immigration controls between NI and GB.
“Northern Ireland citizens should not be reduced to second-class status within the Union, and we will oppose any internal borders within the United Kingdom,” he added.