Don’t leave Brus­sels hold­ing the keys or the UK will be trapped

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Ar­lene Fos­ter DEMO­CRATIC UNION­IST PARTY LEADER

In any ne­go­ti­a­tion process, all par­tic­i­pants need to be con­scious of an in­her­ent risk, namely that their own par­tic­i­pa­tion cre­ates a sense of own­er­ship and at­tach­ment. The long hours, the fo­cus on one new draft af­ter an­other can cloud the orig­i­nal ob­jec­tive. The de­sire to pro­duce the right deal can be su­per­seded by the per­ceived need to pro­duce a deal.

This is why all ne­go­ti­a­tions need mea­sures to prevent this, a check mech­a­nism and prefer­ably mul­ti­ple ones. With the cur­rent UK-EU ne­go­ti­a­tions, there are two iden­ti­fi­able check mech­a­nisms or lines of de­fence to con­clud­ing an un­wise agree­ment – Cab­i­net and Par­lia­ment.

Last week, I wrote to the Prime Min­is­ter out­lin­ing broad con­cerns about the di­rec­tion of travel. This could be dis­cerned from shifts in pub­lic com­ments, pri­vate en­gage­ments and what was be­ing briefed in Lon­don, Dublin and Brus­sels. I wrote in the hope of re­as­sur­ance and with the de­sire that an ac­cept­able deal for us all was within grasp. In­stead, I re­ceived con­fir­ma­tion that we were right to be con­cerned.

If what is out­lined in the re­ply is the type of deal the Prime Min­is­ter in­tends to con­clude, then the DUP could not sup­port a deal which an­nexes North­ern Ire­land from the rest of the United King­dom. In­deed, many oth­ers in West­min­ster and through­out the United King­dom, true to their com­mit­ments to re­spect the ref­er­en­dum, the na­tional in­ter­est and to the Union, have con­tacted me to voice their con­cern.

Equally we can­not be as­sured that this cur­rent pro­posal will be the fi­nal deal. The Eu­ro­pean Union “price” for agree­ment ap­pears to rise daily, whether it be our fish­ing in­dus­try or an ever grow­ing list of level play­ing field com­mit­ments.

Last De­cem­ber when this “back­stop” ap­peared we were deeply con­cerned. This is why we sought and got the para­graph 50 as­sur­ance of a demo­cratic pro­tec­tion against a sea bor­der.

In March, the EU made clear its in­ten­tion to ig­nore para­graph 50 and re­write para­graph 49. We took no so­lace from our pre­dic­tions be­ing cor­rect but we did take so­lace that it was uni­ver­sally rejected. Nei­ther the pas­sage of time nor the ap­pli­ca­tion of pres­sure has made it any more ac­cept­able now.

The “new” idea of a UK cus­toms ar­range­ment does not ap­pear to be a gen­uinely Uk-wide of­fer but a GB of­fer and an NI of­fer badged as one – North­ern Ire­land in the EU cus­toms ter­ri­tory and GB in a cus­toms union. The real in­tent is not to solve any land bor­der is­sues in Ire­land but to hand­cuff the UK to the EU, with the EU hold­ing the keys. The United King­dom would be trapped.

The DUP does not stand alone against this pro­posal. We ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port from MPS across the United King­dom. We are ready to stand with those in Cab­i­net and in Par­lia­ment to work for a bet­ter deal. One which works for the whole United King­dom.

We want the ref­er­en­dum re­sult to be re­spected and the en­tire United King­dom to leave to­gether with a sen­si­ble deal.

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