A house divided has no leverage in negotiations - Mike Nesbitt MLA

Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has said that a divided Executive provides no leverage in negotiations to prepare Northern Ireland for leaving the European Union.

The Ulster Unionist Party brought a motion to the Assembly chamber today, asking the house to endorse the approach taken in their policy document, ‘A vision for Northern Ireland outside the European Union’.

Mr. Nesbitt said:

“Today the Ulster Unionist Party brought forward a motion calling on the Assembly to endorse our three-stranded approach in our ‘Vision’ document. This involves putting forward a vision of what Northern Ireland should look like outside the European Union, a plan to achieve that vision, and key asks which must be delivered. We were not asking for the House to endorse our initial thoughts, but rather to endorse the approach taken. This point seemed to be lost on the DUP and Sinn Fein.

“The debate today presented an ideal opportunity for the Executive to tell us what their plan is, and what actions they have taken since the referendum. However, what we got instead was the typical, sneering response from the DUP and Sinn Fein, who refused to address the issues, and resorted to cheap point scoring.

“While Scotland, Wales and the City of London, have identified their key priorities and have begun lobbying Her Majesty’s Government accordingly, from the Executive we have no plan. In Northern Ireland we are the most affected, and least prepared for Brexit.

“The inertia from the Executive is shocking, yet unsurprising, given the divisions that exist from the fallout of the referendum. In fact it is more accurate to talk about ‘the Executives’, as the Brexit Secretary David Davis will have learned when he visited last month. A house divided has absolutely no leverage in negotiations.

“In the chamber today from other parties there was a recognition that, while they may not have agreed with all the contents of our document, that we had brought forward initial thoughts and proposals, something which has been so glaringly absent from the Executive, apart from one letter containing concerns, all of which were obvious before the referendum.

“The comment from Edwin Poots today was most illuminating, when he said he had ‘every faith’ that the UK Government would negotiate in our interests. Mr. Poots seems to forget the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, when the Government reached a deal with Dublin, which was contrary to the wishes of people in Northern Ireland.

“The Executive should be pressing Northern Ireland’s case to Westminster and Brussels, ensuring our needs are meet in any Brexit deal, not sitting on our hands and hoping for the best.”

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