Still no explanation or apology from the DUP over U-turn on ‘blood red’ lines – Lord Empey

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey said:

“Michael Gove's agreement with Brussels on the handling of the Protocol leaves us in no doubt that things have changed for Northern Ireland. Brussels will determine the regulatory environment for much of our economic activity and be able to impose EU State Aid rules over Northern Ireland business. Neither London or Stormont will have any say or control over this. We will be regulated without representation. Awful stuff.

“As Northern Ireland enters its centenary year, we are entitled to ask how did we get to this limbo land where we are ruled in large measure by the EU while the rest of our country is operating under totally different circumstances? How could this have been allowed to happen?'

“In the weeks before Christmas I put forward what I believed to be some of the answers. I set out how, as a result of the Prime Minister's Brexit negotiations, he put forward a UK proposal to the EU on amending the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland that had been negotiated by the May administration. His document was entitled 'Explanatory Note' and was dated 2nd October 2019. It included: proposals for a regulatory border in the Irish Sea; the establishment of Border Inspection Posts; inclusion of all manufactured goods as well as agricultural produce to be subject to EU rules, including State Aid rules and consequently an ongoing role for the European Court in Northern Ireland's affairs. Crucially, no such rules or European Court involvement would apply to Great Britain.

“I pointed out that immediately this document was released, Arlene Foster and her DUP colleagues endorsed these proposals, describing them as 'a serious and sensible way forward.'

“Lord Dodds didn't like what I was saying and accused me of telling lies. I offered on a radio programme to withdraw my claims and apologise if my statement had been factually incorrect. Needless to say, I have received no evidence that I was factually incorrect. So, at the risk of annoying Nigel and his colleagues once more, I say again that on 2nd October 2019 the DUP endorsed a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, with all the add-ons of Border Inspection posts etc. As a result of this decision, Boris Johnson was able to go to Brussels and Dublin and claim that he had unionist consent for his plan. This point was backed up by evidence given to a House of Commons Committee on 30th October 2019 by former No10 adviser Raoul Ruparel who suggested that the DUP's decision was a significant change from their previous opposition to a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

“Indeed, Mr Ruparel was very conservative in his language. Mrs Foster had described the DUP's opposition to such a border as 'a blood red line.'

So, why the volte-face? Lord Dodds claimed that in Boris Johnson's paper the Executive and Assembly would need to consent and therefore they (the DUP) had a veto. This is the bit I don't understand. Firstly, in October 2019 there was no functioning Assembly, therefore no veto could have been exercised. Second, if the DUP were to have a veto, by definition, so would Sinn Fein. Is it credible to imagine that faced with handing a veto to the DUP over Brexit, Sinn Fein, in the run up to an Irish Election would willingly go back into Stormont and face the wrath of the Dublin electorate? Thirdly, did the DUP seriously believe that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Macron of France or Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would agree to handing a veto over the operation of the EU Single Market to the DUP in Belfast? It’s nonsense. It was never going to happen.'

“Apart from the Alice in Wonderland thinking behind the veto proposal, which by 17th October 2019 was removed entirely from the final Agreement with the EU, why would any unionist endorse a document which proposed a border between two parts of the United Kingdom, veto or no veto? The real veto the DUP had in October 2019 was to refuse to consent to Boris Johnson`s document and withdraw support from his government, which at that time was reliant on their support in Parliament. They failed to do so.

“I have been trying to find any rational argument in favour of their decision, but without success. It was a huge and costly strategic mistake. Nigel's response to me was typical bluster which one can easily dismiss, but the damage all of this has done to Northern Ireland and to the Union has yet to be fully calculated.

“Border posts are now being installed in most Northern Ireland ports, £750m is being allocated to help business cope with the paperwork and other regulatory requirements of being at an international border between the EU and a third country, which is what Great Britain will become on 1st January.

“In normal circumstances, any Party which presided over such a strategic and political disaster might be expected to express some regrets over what happened. So far, there has not been a sliver of regret expressed, never mind an apology to the people of Northern Ireland for allowing them to be annexed by a foreign power, which the EU will become on 1st January.

"Some DUP leaders may think that this will all blow over and they can move on. It`s not going to happen. They are only in the foothills of the exposure of gross incompetence and absolute failure to protect our precious Union.”



9 October 2018

Arlene Foster - “We’ve always said there’s only one red line in these matters and that’s when we’re treated differently from the rest of the UK in terms of customs in terms of regulatory alignment and that’s not only to protect the constitutional integrity of the UK but also the economy of NI.”

News Archives