The top priority of the Ulster Unionist Party is the preservation of the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
What we have before us in Boris Johnson’s deal has to be measured and judged against that priority.
The creation of a border in the Irish Sea, with our ports and airports being the place where the European Union single market has its boundaries, is unacceptable to the Ulster Unionist Party.
In recent days we have been making these points. Never before has such a proposal been put forward by the Westminster government, nor has such a proposal ever been supported by a pro-Union party.
How did we get here?
The answer is simple. On October 2 the DUP signed up to the prime minister’s document which required Northern Ireland to be in the single market with Great Britain outside it; this created a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, something the DUP had time and again said it would not support. It was entirely predictable that adding a customs border as well was going to follow.
The DUP also agreed with the proposal that every four years the NI Assembly would have to agree whether to remain with these new arrangements or not.
This would condemn us to endless Brexit arguments and further toxify our politics. As Robin Swann MLA said, every day would be Brexit day and a proxy for a border poll every four years.
Those with a knowledge of Europe knew straight away that one party having a veto over this was never going to happen. In any case, the assembly is not sitting, and even if it were, republicans could pull it down again in order that we would stay aligned to the EU. It was always nonsense.
This mess has, in large measure, been brought about by the Democratic Unionist Party. They gave the green light for an Irish Sea border, something no unionists have ever done before. Something that was inconceivable a short few days ago.
That others would take advantage of this was entirely predictable.
The DUP are now trying to present themselves as fighting the good fight to prevent this deal, even though significant parts of it were being promoted by them a few days ago.
The lesson of this sorry state of affairs is that the Union is not safe in the DUP’s hands; they have dropped the ball. They wouldn’t listen to anybody, thinking that they know all the answers and as a result we are now faced with a choice between this deal or remaining in the EU for a longer period. They have failed to ensure that the UK leaves the EU on time and have opened up a can of constitutional worms as well, because any future negotiations will use their proposed border in the Irish Sea concession as a starting point.
The UUP deeply regrets that our businesses, farmers and others face continuing uncertainty. It is the last thing any of us need.
Lord Empey, London