‘I have never seen UK and NI in such a mess in over 30 years’

Sir Reg Empey speaking in the House of Lords
Sir Reg Empey speaking in the House of Lords

The government’s deal on the withdrawal from the European Union could be heading for “huge defeats” in both the Lords and the House of Commons, Sir Reg Empey has said.

Ahead of the votes taking place in the Lords on December 10 and the Commons the following day, the Ulster Unionist peer said: “Never in all my time in politics have I seen our beloved United Kingdom in general, and Northern Ireland in particular, in such a mess.”

Lord Empey’s career is a long one: he became a Belfast councillor in 1985 and was an MLA from 1998 to 2010, including a stint as UUP leader.

Lord Empey, who is also the UUP chairman, said there are unknown consequences of the predicted defeats.

“While the ‘meaningful vote’ in the Commons on December 11 is the one that really counts, it could be influenced by the one in the Lords which is to take place the day before on December 10,” he said.

“What Her Majesty’s Government has put on the table is unacceptable and sadly the DUP failed to see the dangers in the backstop last year when they could have done something about it. Incompetence, sabotage and political posturing all play their part in this, but it is the next generation that will pay the price.”

UUP leader Robin Swann said the draft withdrawal agreement “fundamentally undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom and transfers Northern Ireland into constitutional limbo – nominally part of the UK, but subject to EU rules and regulations over which we have no control, leading to longer term uncertainty and instability.”