Unionist outrage at EU Brexit plan

Dodds: A seamless border cannot be achieved by dressing up the status quo
Dodds: A seamless border cannot be achieved by dressing up the status quo

Unionist politicians have railed against EU plans to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said such proposals “would amount to placing a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK” while DUP MP Nigel Dodds has insisted NI will not be divided from rest of the UK after Brexit.

The comments come after a leaked paper tabled during Brexit discussions suggested Northern Ireland would have to continue following many EU rules – including those of the EU customs union – to prevent a hard border.

Ulster Unionist MEP Mr Nicholson said: “The European Union has pledged to protect the Belfast Agreement in Brexit talks.

“That is utterly incompatible with these alleged proposals, which essentially would place an international border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“Economically, placing barriers to trade with Great Britain, and taking us out of the UK single market, makes no sense whatsoever.

“Across all major sectors, our biggest single market for sales is the United Kingdom.

He added: “If Brussels thinks it speaks for Northern Ireland, or that this would somehow be in Northern Ireland’s interests, it can think again.”

DUP Parliamentary leader Mr Dodds said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

Meanwhile Alliance’s Stephen Farry has said the position suggested in the leaked paper reiterated Alliance’s view that a unique solution for Northern Ireland centred around continued membership of the single market can be found.