Belfast Telegraph

Jim Nicholson: Any 'special status' for Northern Ireland would see Irish Sea becoming the border

As the Brexit debate continues, we ask our three MEPs to give their views on how they see the situation playing out

By Jim Nicholson

Like many unionists, I supported the vote to Remain as, on balance, at the time I felt it was better for the entire United Kingdom to work to reform the EU from within.

However, I am a democrat and accept the Leave vote.

The Government has a duty to act upon that vote, and deliver a Brexit that works for all parts of the United Kingdom and for all sectors of our economy.

I am under no illusions that if we end up with a bad deal, or in a 'no deal' situation, Northern Ireland will have the most to lose, not least because we are the only part of the United Kingdom to share a land border with the European Union.

The notion of so-called 'special status' for Northern Ireland does not solve the challenges Northern Ireland faces from Brexit.

Remaining in the EU with the rest of the UK outside would merely move the border to the Irish Sea. It is therefore no surprise that the biggest proponents of this idea is Sinn Fein, who will use any excuse to try to break up the United Kingdom. By a huge margin, Northern Ireland's largest single market for sales is mainland United Kingdom.

Sinn Fein's 'special status' would erect new barriers to trade with the rest of the UK, and would risk wrecking our local economy in the process. It is in the best interests of all parties involved that the UK and the EU agree a deep and comprehensive trade agreement, with no tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

In fact, as negotiations develop, it will become clear that it is the Republic of Ireland who will need to seek its own 'special status' within the European Union, not Northern Ireland.

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