Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has warned that proposals within the EU draft withdrawal agreement would have “devastating implications for the constitutional integrity” of the United Kingdom.
Mr Nicholson pointed out that under the draft plans Northern Ireland would be forced to accept laws without democratic input, and welcomed the fact that Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will reject the proposals.
Mr Nicholson said:
“The proposals published today by Michel Barnier show a tremendous level of ignorance of the Belfast Agreement, a disregard for the principle of consent and disrespect towards the constitution of the United Kingdom. It is a clear departure from the text agreed in December. These proposals are tantamount to annexing Northern Ireland economically and politically away from the rest of the United Kingdom.
“Keeping Northern Ireland in EU customs territory and essentially part of the EU single market with the rest of the United Kingdom outside would mean whole swathes of our laws and regulations would not be taken by elected MPs at Westminster, or even in Stormont, but at the European Council where the UK will no longer have a seat and in the European Parliament where the UK will no longer have MEPs.
“We would have one part of the United Kingdom under the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice with the rest of the UK outside. This is not constitutionally viable.
“There are some in Brussels who think Dublin speaks for Northern Ireland. Perhaps even the Irish Government think they have the best interests of Northern Ireland at heart. But the fact is, having Dublin - or anyone else - making decisions for Northern Ireland without UK democratic representation would have devastating implications for the constitutional integrity of our country, and would represent a clear breach of the Belfast Agreement.
“Brussels and Dublin have repeated time and again throughout this process the need to protect the Belfast Agreement “in all its parts”. Yet it seems it is they who are refusing to accept what the Agreement actually says.
“The important thing to remember is that this text is a draft, from the EU side. Make no mistake, we are facing serious challenges here. But the fact remains all sides need a sensible deal that works for all parties. We need to proceed with cool heads and I welcome commitments from the Prime Minister that this language will be rejected, and that the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will be upheld."