Lord Empey: Border poll is not linked to Brexit

There are fears the border could go back to the way it was in the past
There are fears the border could go back to the way it was in the past

I have now received two answers to Parliamentary Questions that I have tabled which firmly rule a border poll off the agenda in forthcoming talks on Brexit, which will of course involve the Irish Government.

From the moment the referendum result was announced, Sinn Fein was calling for a border poll. Although initially cool on the idea, Taoiseach Enda Kenny moved his position to argue that the matter of a border poll should be on the table during talks on Brexit.

I believe that the Brexit talks and a border poll are not connected in any way, and if we are to make a success of Brexit talks, linking them with a border poll is a recipe for disaster.

The legislation covering the provision for a border poll spells out the circumstances under which a poll can be held, and as the NIO acknowledges in the answers I have received, such conditions are not met.

The Secretary of State has to be satisfied that there is likely to be a majority in favour of Irish unity before a poll can be held.

No evidence exists to support such a conclusion, indeed recent elections point in the opposite direction.

This has always been a Sinn Fein device to keep their aspirations for a united Ireland on the agenda, and it is unfortunate that the Irish government is allowing itself to be dragged into Sinn Fein territory.

Talk of a border poll would sour any trade and free movement discussions and unionists would not accept this as part of the Brexit process.

I hope that now the government has set out its position, politicians here and in Dublin will concentrate on getting the best deal with our European partners on trade, free movement and avoid, if possible, a hard border. These are the things that matter most to people – the protection of trade and jobs - and allowing ourselves to be side tracked by a toxic Sinn Fein agenda would be a great and costly mistake.

Lord Empey, Ulster Unionist