Belfast Telegraph

Any alternative Brexit solution needs to involve all of the UK: UUP leader Swann

By David Young

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has called on the Prime Minister to ditch her EU withdrawal agreement and bring forward UK-wide plans for Brexit.

The agreement, which Theresa May insists is the only deal on offer from the EU, could see Northern Ireland remaining within the EU's legal and trade frameworks, becoming increasingly cut off from the rest of the UK over time.

Instead of risking Northern Ireland entering a "constitutional limbo", the UUP leader (right) said Mrs May should take her current deal off the table and that any alternatives must be UK-wide in their entirety.

"The draft withdrawal agreement fundamentally undermines the integrity of the United Kingdom and transfers Northern Ireland into constitutional limbo - nominally part of the UK, but subject to EU rules and regulations over which we have no control, leading to longer term uncertainty and instability," Mr Swann said.

"This is something that we warned of last December and again in March when we wrote to the Prime Minister.

"Regrettably the strong words defending and promoting the Union from the Secretary of State didn't match with the words of the final agreement between the Government and the EU.

"The EU knew that they had the UK over a barrel as soon as the Government agreed to the inclusion of the disastrous backstop in last December's agreement."

Mr Swann said his party has already called on Mrs May to extend the Article 50 deadline for leaving the EU past the current leaving date of March 29 2019, in order for further negotiations to take place. It would be better, he said, to allow time for more negotiations that may yield a better deal, rather than risk the future of the Union for the sake of meeting the Article 50 deadline.

Mr Swann added: "We will look at alternatives and assess their merits, but the bottom line for the Ulster Unionist Party is that any solution must be UK-wide in its entirety."

He also cautioned against leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, which he said could have "potentially dire consequences" for Northern Ireland.

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