Belfast Telegraph

Emma Little-Pengelly: New all-party parliamentary group will make the case for our Union with vigour

Emma Little Pengelly
Emma Little Pengelly

By Emma Little-Pengelly

This is a pivotal time for the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, opponents of our Union are using the current state of flux as an opportunity to unsettle and divide.

Difficult and drawn-out negotiations with the EU have given rise to understandable apprehension across the UK. It is this concern of impending change that is being used by those who wish to tear apart our United Kingdom. They must not be allowed to succeed.

The public, as a whole, are apprehensive of change, particularly when aspects of that change are unclear. This is why urgent clarity on the way forward with Brexit is overdue and much-needed.

However, there is an irony that those who are trying to manipulate that fear propose the breaking up of the United Kingdom as the answer. This is seriously warped logic. Such a decision would undoubtedly cause decades of transition, instability and create significant impacts on the economy, as hundreds of years of detailed integration and commonality are pulled apart. Decades of uncertainty would inevitably follow on from the break-up of the United Kingdom. You cannot solve current uncertainly by replacing it with an even greater, and longer, period of change and transition.

Learning from the challenges of leaving a Union forged of several decades, the scale of the challenge of breaking up the centuries-old UK would likely cause a catastrophic economic situation, one that we may never recover from.

I am often reminded of Thomas Jefferson's famous quote that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". It is not enough for us to recognise the attempts of others, or risks posed. We must act to challenge the flawed arguments and do all we can to promote and strengthen our Union.

It is for that reason that I have founded the House of Commons, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Strengthening the Union (APPG). MPs and Lords from across all parts of our United Kingdom have come together to fight for and make the case for our Union.

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We do not want to simply maintain the current position, but instead strengthen the bonds that bring us together.

I was delighted that those who value the Union from every part of the UK were present to show there is unity across the nation when it comes to standing against those who attempt to undermine the Union for their own short-sighted, narrow political agendas.

I am privileged to have been elected the inaugural chairperson, a task that I will pursue with passion and vigour.

It was timely that on the day that Boris Johnson was announced as new Prime Minister, unionists from across the political spectrum met to show their collective support for the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Being British is far more than the passport that I hold. Britishness is about our shared culture, identity and respect. Britishness celebrates our shared history which has endured world conflicts, industrial change and many other threats. Britishness unites us through literature, sport and identity.

I am proud of the positive impact Britain has had across the globe, and proud of our record of standing strong against the tyranny of fascism, communism and violent republicanism.

I am proud of our armed forces and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, not only during Operation Banner but across the many other theatres of war.

Although the UK makes up a small part of the world's population, our influence is recognisable in every part of the globe. We have a cultural richness and an economic strength which ensures we always 'punch above our weight'.

The economic argument for the Union continually devastates our opponents and we should be proud that the distribution of wealth has reached every corner of the United Kingdom.

From Peterhead to Plymouth, from Portrush to Port Talbot. More work is needed to help all, hence the regions of the United Kingdom are sustained and supported significantly by the redistribution of funds created by more central UK economic powerhouses.

One of our tasks will be increasing economic output, productivity and growth across all our regions. I want all parts of the UK to be economic generators in their own right.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson recently said: "A country that spreads its power and culture networks across the country will ensure that all of us, no matter where we live, feel we have a real stake in it."

The Union will only survive if it incorporates all parts of the United Kingdom and people feel they have a part to play. It cannot be thrust upon them and cannot be seen as the property of one political party or group.

That is why as chairperson of the APPG - I want us to play as full a part as possible in the life of the UK as a whole.

This is an opportunity to make the case for the Union in terms of our history, our culture, our economy as well as every other facet of life.

I want to use the APPG not just to persuade others of its worth but to remind ourselves of the value of the Union and why we cherish it.

I am in no doubt that the case for the Union is unanswerable. The Union commands widespread support, but the APPG will ask the question of what we can do to make it even more appealing to everyone within our society.

Emma Little-Pengelly is DUP MP for South Belfast

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