UUP: tactical blunders have led to flawed Brexit deal

MEP UUP Jim Nicholson.'Pic: Pacemaker
MEP UUP Jim Nicholson.'Pic: Pacemaker

Tactical blunders throughout the Brexit negotiating process have led to flawed Withdrawal Agreement, according to UUP MEP Jim Nicholson.

Mr Nicholson has said that the problems with the Government’s draft EU Withdrawal Agreement stem from tactical blunders made throughout the negotiating process.

“We are in this mess today largely because of two major decisions that were taken by the UK Government - including Boris Johnson and David Davis - while being propped up by the DUP, during this negotiation process,” he said.

“The first is agreeing to the EU’s sequencing. When David Davis was leading these negotiations he rolled over and accepted the EU’s agenda for talks - that the money, citizens’ rights and UK - Republic of Ireland border issues had to be settled before the future relationship could be agreed.

“This has now led us to a situation whereby all the EU’s key demands could soon be agreed in a legally binding international treaty. By contrast, UK asks by and large are in the political declaration which has no legal basis, and can only be agreed once we have left the EU and lost any leverage we currently have.”

The second mistake came, he said, with the infamous agreement on the backstop that was pulled together in December 2017.

“The DUP boasted that it had eliminated the possibility of an Irish Sea border. The EU took another view, and we can see very clearly today who won that argument.”

Meanwhile, a UUP delegation led by Justice Spokesman Doug Beattie MC MLA, and including Steve Aiken MLA and John Stewart MLA, has met with the Attorney General John Larkin QC, to discuss a range of Brexit issues.

Following the meeting Doug Beattie MC MLA said: “It is clear that if this Agreement does come into being, Northern Ireland will remain subject to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In fact, with matters that are in the jurisdiction of the ECJ, they will retain primacy in Northern Ireland while this would not be the case in the rest of the United Kingdom. They will also have an interpretive role in respect to the protocols of the agreement that cannot be challenged. This hardly tallies with the Prime Minister’s claim that we are taking back control of our own laws.”

“If we ever do get an Assembly re-established here, its legislative role will be extremely limited, because it will have to adopt EU laws without question or having any ability to revise or amend.”

Steve Aiken OBE MLA said:

“As a party we have been engaging with the widest range of business leaders and business groups, and now with the Attorney General, to get some sense of the implications that the activation of the protocol would have. It is obvious that the Assembly – if it ever comes back – would have a much diminished role. This would increasingly look like joint authority between the EU and the UK.”