Doug Beattie Calls for the Immediate Return to Stormont
Doug Beattie MC MLA today said:
‘The Ulster Unionist Party remains convinced that to secure and promote our place within the United Kingdom we must have a functioning devolved government. Boycotting Stormont may be popular for some but frustration leads to bad choices. It has proven to be ineffective and is now becoming more damaging and destabilising for Northern Ireland and the wider Union.
The argument that boycotting the Executive and Assembly has worked is not borne out by facts. The inconvenient truth is that on the 1st March 2022, after President Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the European Parliament, Maros Sefcovic met with me, Lord Empey and former MEP Jim Nicholson at the EU Commission in Brussels and outlined the deal which would later become the Windsor Framework. This was further confirmed to us by the UK Ambassador to the EU - Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby – the following day.
The issue causing the delay in implementing the deal was due to a lack of trust in the then Prime Minister – Boris Johnston – and the testing of the data sharing mechanism which had not then been completed. The breakdown of talks between the UK and EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol had been exacerbated by the then forthcoming Assembly elections, further delaying a solution - something I raised concerns about with both the EU and the UK Government.
Fast forward to June 2022 and a meeting between the then EU Ambassador to the UK in London and myself and Lord Empey. The Ambassador clearly laid out the timeframe for the deal that would result in the Windsor Framework. This timeframe foresaw the removal of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill through a talks process and eventual deal which he said would come in early Spring. Add into this the UK’s Integrated Review of Defence and Security – a major document published just two weeks after the Windsor Framework was agreed – and which has clear, unambiguous references to the Framework.
You simply cannot create a strategic document around Defence and Security in two weeks. It is clear the Windsor Framework was agreed well in advance and it was a small part of a larger strategic vision. The boycott of Stormont did not factor in any of this and the Windsor Framework would have come about whether there was a boycott or not.
Unionism must start again by learning from its mistakes and begin strategically thinking ahead. We must understand that Northern Ireland is better as part of the whole and that whole – the United Kingdom – needs economic stability, good governance and the ability to react to a changing and very dangerous world. Having the UK look over its shoulder as Northern Ireland becomes even more economically unstable is not helping the Union and is not what Unionism should be about. We must play our part in securing the United Kingdom and in doing so secure our place in it.
An immediate return to Stormont is essential to Make Northern Ireland Work’.