UUP MEP Jim Nicholson has warned a summit of European leaders that neither Dublin nor Brussels can speak for Northern Ireland on attempts to include provisions for a potential united Ireland in Brexit talks.
He was speaking after the Financial Times reported that European leaders are preparing to recognise the potential for a “united Ireland” within the EU - ensuring that Northern Ireland would seamlessly rejoin the bloc after Brexit in the event of a vote for Irish reunification.
The paper noted the move may stoke concerns in Britain that Brexit could hasten the fragmentation of the UK, and that diplomats are planning to ask leaders of the EU’s 27 post-Brexit member countries to endorse the idea in a summit. But UUP MEP Jim Nicholson challenged the move.
“As I made clear to EU negotiator Michel Barnier in the European Parliament earlier this month, Dublin does not speak for Northern Ireland - and Brussels does not speak for us either,” he said.
He added that it was “disappointing to see that some are using Brexit as an excuse to try to break up the United Kingdom” and added: “I have raised these points with UK government ministers as well as EU leaders such as Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt.
“Brussels needs to be clear that the Belfast Agreement cannot be cherry-picked. It affirmed the fact that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom as long as the majority of its people wish to remain so. This also means that any ‘special status’ that puts a de facto border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain risks breaching the Agreement.”
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the Irish government was attempting to use Saturday’s summit to amend guidelines for Brexit negotiations. “I welcome that, although I fear it might be too little, too late,” he said.
Meanwhile, an event is being held on Thursday at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen for councils on each side of the border to consider the impact of Brexit.
Titled ‘Brexit and the Ireland/N Ireland Border Corridor: What next for Local Government and Business?’ the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre will advise councillors from all border local authorities on threats and opportunities from Brexit and how they might collaborate together.