As a member of the Conservative and Unionist party living and working in Northern Ireland, I’ve felt in a quandary over the proposed Brexit deal: between a rock and a hard place, you might say.
Do I support my leader and Prime Minister with her proposed Brexit deal? It’s potentially a huge economic advantage and benefit to Northern Ireland, but doesn’t really deliver a full Brexit in my eyes – and some argue its a slow route to a United Ireland.
Or should I go against it and the ramifications of a ‘no deal’, spinning Northern Ireland into an economic downturn and uncertainty for our future?
On a conference call with the Prime Minister last Friday I had tabled a question, which unfortunately was not answered as we ran over time. The question I put was: can the PM guarantee the union will not be weakened by this deal?
I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the union and Northern Ireland’s place in it with the PM on previous occasions, and have always felt 100% assured of her commitment to the UK. I still believe in her commitment to the UK, and protecting the union, however I don’t believe in the EU’s. Hence my quandary.
As a unionist I speak to various people both business, political and community and I have come to the conclusion that a lot of ordinary people from both sides of our community are economic unionists driven financially by their heads and in their hearts they are open to a United Ireland at varying times.
Whether we like to admit it as unionists, this is a fact.
That, coupled with no devolved administration and the petty local politics, with no desire to understand the other perspective and then respect it, means I have come to the conclusion for me that the best way to protect the union is to ensure that we are economically strong and growing.
Is the deal perfect? By the Prime Ministers own admission no, but its as good as it gets at the moment.
To me it’s a half measure, but delivers better benefits to the people of Northern Ireland than a so-called hard Brexit.
I do however have upmost faith in the PMs commitment to us. It is up to us as unionists and with the help of the Conservative government to ensure that Northern Ireland remains a fully integrated part of the UK.
For me a stronger economy in Northern Ireland means a stronger union within the UK.
Frank Shivers, Bangor