Jim Allister: EU backstop would be the end of Northern Ireland

If the DUP agrees to the Brexit backstop under any circumstances, it will be setting Northern Ireland on the path to leaving the Union, Jim Allister has told his party.

Monday, 18th March 2019, 7:18 am
Updated Monday, 18th March 2019, 8:21 am
TUV leader Jim Allister told the audience in Cookstowns Royal Hotel that the backstop was a matter of sovereignty

Speaking to TUV members in Cookstown’s Royal Hotel, the former MEP spoke at length about the deal which Theresa May is attempting to persuade the DUP to support.

Mr Allister said that the deal was “a disgrace in every dimension – but it is particularly disastrous for this part of the United Kingdom because of the backstop. The backstop would annex this part of the UK into a vassal protectorate of the EU”.

He said that any unionist MP who embraced the backstop “at all in any circumstances ... would be setting us not to exit the EU but setting us to exit the UK. That is the backstop. That is the essence of it.”

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He said: “You can see what’s happening – Northern Ireland is being put in a place where, little by little, day by day, year by year, we are weaned away from our natural economic attachment and outlet – the single market of the United Kingdom – and we are orientated increasingly towards the economy and the single market of the Irish Republic and the EU.

“That is the game plan. It is about placing Northern Ireland in a waiting room for Irish unity. That is something that no one worthy of the name unionist could ever ... contemplate, because that is the beginning of the end of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom.”

He said there was “hysterical enthusiasm” for the backstop from “pan-nationalism” because it was “delivering what they want” and would make Northern Ireland “economically, and thus ultimately constitutionally, more and more attached to the very institutions of Europe to which those in the rest of Ireland belong”.

Alluding to DUP suggestions of a time-limited backstop, he said that it was “not a matter of duration – it’s a matter of sovereignty”.

The TUV leader was caustic about the idea of giving Stormont a role in the backstop, describing it as “the most dysfunctional, failed, unworkable arrangements” where the issue would become part of a back-room trade-off between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

He said that the Belfast Agreement “doesn’t say a word” about a hard border or about cross-border regulatory alignment. He added: “What’s wrong with a border anyhow? If we’re two different nations; if we’re truly part of the United Kingdom, and if the United Kingdom chooses not to be within the EU and the Irish Republic does, and the treaties of the EU say therefore the Irish Republic as the frontier state must maintain the single market border ... so what?

“Does it come to this now – that all of this is being shaped by toadying and pandering to the threat of terrorism?”

Mr Allister, a passionate Eurosceptic, also denounced the House of Commons for “voting against the people” and for thinking that “we know better” than the people who had decided to leave the EU.

He said: “How dare they! The people of this nation made the decision and now we have a contrived scenario whereby by stealth of delay this stratagem is to avoid it altogether. That undoubtedly is the strategy that is being played out.”