Diane Dodds: DUP will play its part to promote NI's case in Brexit negotiations
As the Brexit debate continues, we ask our three MEPs to give their views on how they see the situation playing out
This week, the first meaningful set of talks are taking place in Brussels to decide the terms of the UK's exit from the EU. This is a positive step toward ensuring the democratic result of the referendum is respected. At the outset, it is reassuring that Northern Ireland's particular circumstances are front and centre for Michel Barnier and the UK Government.
The referendum was hard fought and at times divisive, but this should not dissuade us from finding common ground in the future. For some, special designated status for NI inside the EU has been their big ticket priority, however this would cut us off from the GB market - the most important marketplace for local goods and services.
Instead, we must act carefully to ensure that as an integral part of an independent UK, Northern Ireland maintains mutually beneficial access to the Single Market and harnesses fresh opportunities flowing from Brexit.
The result of the general election sent a strong message that local people cherish our historic Union within the UK, but it also reflected a widespread desire to see devolution restored.
This is not only vital to make provision for frontline services, but to ensure key Brexit decisions can be taken with the full involvement of local Ministers.
Already the Government has announced a new agriculture bill and fisheries bill to deal with these sectors post-Brexit. A Northern Ireland Minister is vital as these intra-UK negotiations progress.
As the repeal bill passes through our national Parliament, it is clear that many key debates and decisions will take place at Westminster. By refusing to take its seats, Sinn Fein continues to abdicate its responsibilities to the electorate, but with our team of 10 MPs the DUP will be there to actively promote the Northern Ireland case. Sinn Fein has blocked the formation of an Executive and in so doing has weakened Northern Ireland's voice in Brussels.