Nigel Dodds: We've made it clear we cannot accept something that will undermine Union's integrity
At the last General Election every major party stood on a manifesto commitment of delivering upon the referendum result. There was a Parliamentary majority of nearly 400 in the vote to trigger the Article 50 process.
The DUP supported the campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and we have always been clear that we would support the Government to deliver a sensible exit from the European Union which strengthened the Union and which benefited all parts of the UK.
When Theresa May visited Belfast a few weeks after the referendum in July 2016 she met the then First Minister and deputy First Minister.
It was right that even at that early stage Arlene Foster outlined the DUP’s clear view that leaving the EU should not lead to a return of the borders of the past between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
A false choice was developed however, that in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland that a border would have to be drawn down the Irish Sea.
Paragraph 50 of last December’s Joint Report was inserted because the DUP recognised the impact such a border would have.
Paragraph 50 is quite clear that there can be no regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom unless the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agrees.
This document was agreed by both the United Kingdom and the European Union and the Prime Minister repeatedly made clear her support to maintain such a position.
All the DUP has asked of the Prime Minister is to implement what was agreed within Paragraph 50 and on her many statements to the House of Commons and to the wider public.
Much has been made of the DUP’s recognition that the Withdrawal Agreement presented by the Prime Minister would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
However, the issue of the Union has been central to much of the criticisms levelled against the agreement and it has been specifically cited by many of those, including Cabinet ministers who have resigned their post.
Among those who resigned their posts in government are those who voted to remain as well as those who campaigned to leave the European Union. They recognise that the integrity of the United Kingdom should not be undermined simply to comply with the EU’s desire to protect its single market.
There should be no-one surprised at the stance taken by the DUP in response to the deal. It has been our consistent and repeated stance both in public and in private. What was striking that following the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament there were voices from every part of the UK and from all sides of the House of Commons raising real concerns about the impact of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Those MPs recognise that the choice to be placed before Parliament is to stand up for the whole of the UK or to vote for a vassal state, subject to the rules of others and a weakening of the ties which bind our United Kingdom together.