Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: We left Mr Barnier in no doubt of our view that withdrawal agreement is fatally flawed and new approach is needed

Arlene Foster, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson leaving the European Commission yesterday following a meeting with Michel Barnier to discuss Brexit
Arlene Foster, Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson leaving the European Commission yesterday following a meeting with Michel Barnier to discuss Brexit
The trio with Dutch customs expert Hans Maessen, Mr Barnier and DUP MEP Diane Dodds

By Arlene Foster

We have met Michel Barnier on many occasions previously, but this was a useful meeting to encourage the EU's chief negotiator to think again.

It was useful for him to hear a combined delegation who could further explain why the withdrawal agreement is failing to secure the support of Parliament.

Only time will tell if he was listening.

Our MEP Diane Dodds - as well as Conservative MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson - alongside Dutch customs expert Hans Maessen were able to encourage Michel Barnier and his team to recognise the problem with the withdrawal agreement and consider a better way forward.

We reminded him that in any negotiation process there can only be an agreement when both parties have accepted the proposals on offer.

The UK Parliament has rejected this deal on three occasions.

It was important for Michel Barnier to understand that we want to see a sensible deal which works for every part of the United Kingdom and which respects the referendum result. We also want to see an orderly exit which also works for the EU, but we cannot accept a deal which would undermine the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

While the European Union has spoken much about protecting the peace process and the Belfast Agreement, it has barely paid lip service to the views of unionists who cannot support the erection of trade barriers between Northern Ireland and our greatest market in Great Britain.

Fundamentally, though, the negotiating process has been poorly handled in London.

Between intransigence in Brussels and ineffectiveness in London, we have arrived at a wholly undesirable place where we could be electing MEPs to the European Parliament within weeks but almost three years after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

If the UK must participate in the European elections, the DUP will contest that election and Diane Dodds will be the DUP candidate.

The people of Northern Ireland will have an opportunity to send the same message to the European Union as we took to Michel Barnier: it is time to implement the 2016 result and all the United Kingdom to leave the European Union together as one country.

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