UUP Demand A More 'Constructive' Approach From The EU

An Ulster Unionist MEP has called for a more constructive approach from the EU as the UK seeks a workable deal to facilitate a smooth Brexit.

Jim Nicholson's comments follow a debate with EU leaders in Brussels.

With only 53 days until the deadline, the MEP warned of the "real dangers' of a no-deal scenario, and urged negotiators in Brussels to take a more constructive and positive attitude in the coming negotiations.

"I have been clear, there is a problem with the backstop, not least that it is in direct contradiction to the principle of consent as enshrined within the Belfast Agreement. That needs to be fixed. 

"But, I am firmly of the view that no problem is insurmountable, and I believe that the EU wants to agree a workable deal. I did detect a slight change of tone in Mr Juncker's speech to the Parliament, which potentially paves a way forward through this impasse. 

"Although time is running out, nothing is insurmountable and common sense must prevail."

Meanwhile, DUP Leader Arlene Foster has hinted at a new way forward since parliament voted to seek legally binding changes to the "toxic backstop".

The MLA was speaking to supporters in Kesh, County Fermanagh, and said that EU negotiators now have the clear mandate they had been asking for.

"It was a massive step forward for the Party to see a majority in Parliament also calling for such changes. A clear message was sent to Brussels that the backstop is the problem.
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"Whilst a consensus was reached, we must be realistic, the EU are tough negotiators. I don't expect them to roll over within hours. But they must face up to reality. The blockage to getting a deal is the backstop therefore there must be sensible engagement and a pragmatic approach.

"Here in Kesh, we are within walking distance of the border. Local people travel to and from across the border multiple times every day. It is quite disgraceful for some in Brussels to exploit genuine fears by spinning tales of border posts, troops and queues.

"No one is building border checkpoints.  No one is sending troops to the border either. Such talk is foolish and careless."

Last week, chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said there are mechanisms to avoid a so-called hard border, even in a 'no deal' scenario.

Irish minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, also acknowledged this in the Dáil when he said: "If the UK leaves without an agreement in place and the European Union and Ireland are on one side and the UK is on the other, we will all have to work intensively together to ensure that we deliver on our shared goal of avoiding the return of a hard border. We are absolutely committed to doing that, even in those difficult circumstances."

"I welcome the realism both in Brussels and Dublin," the Stormont Party leader continued.

"Such pragmatic statements ensure genuine fears of local people about the border are laid to rest. The road ahead will be long and winding but its now time for those who speak a lot about the Belfast Agreement to step up and demonstrate by their actions that the views of unionists are also valued. 

"A new border east-west is unacceptable to unionists. Let's focus on getting a sensible deal which works for Brussels, Dublin and London."

Northern Ireland's pro-Remain parties, Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance and the Greens have reiterated their position as united in support of the backstop.


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