Lord Empey Addresses North Down Ulster Unionists

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Lord Empey Addresses North Down Ulster Unionists

Speaking to the Annual General Meeting of North Down Ulster Unionist Association at Bangor, Ulster Unionist Peer, Lord Reg Empey said:-

‘I participated in the debate on Tuesday night in the House of Lords when we were discussing the Statutory Instruments that will give legislative effect to the deal done between the DUP and the Government.’

‘It was a debate like no other I have witnessed in my political career.’

‘On 4th February, the DUP returned to the Assembly exactly two years after they collapsed it in protest at the Protocol and subsequently the Windsor Framework. They have been campaigning to eliminate the border in the Irish Sea that was created by the Protocol, and they also set out to remove the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice from Northern Ireland, and to prevent the European Union for imposing its legislation on this part of the United Kingdom.’

‘I can confidently confirm to you now, that despite all the hype and spin, not one of these objectives has been achieved. The border in the Irish Sea remains as does the role of the ECJ and the ability of Brussels to make regulations and laws that govern a large area of our economy.’

‘But if you don’t believe me, then you must listen to the comments of four senior DUP Peers, who stood up in Parliament on Tuesday to totally contradict their party Leader and Deputy Leader both of whom commended their deal with the UK government as having met the DUP’s objectives and met their party’s 7 tests! Four of the DUP’s Peers demolished the arguments of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, all confirming that the Irish Sea Border still exists, and their Party’s 7 tests have not been met.’

‘I know that many will say ‘so what.’ All that matters is that Stormont is going again and let’s hope it works and helps people through a cost-of-living crisis and huge problems with health and education. I get that. But if the return is based on a series of falsehoods, it only stores up trouble for later. Many unionist supporters were once again marched up the hill and marched down again, spreading further disillusionment with politics. Why was it necessary to cause two years of disruption when a negotiation with London and Brussels could have been far more effective?’

‘Almost two years ago I was a member of a Party delegation, led by Doug Beattie, that went to Brussels to promote Northern Ireland’s case for an alternative to the Protocol. It was the same day that President Zelensky addressed the European Parliament.’

‘The delegation sat across the table from Vice President Maros Sefcovic when he said that he could remove 95% of checks. His figure not ours.’

‘An alternative to two years of mayhem was available.’

‘There is one other thing I must say before moving on to North Down issues.’

‘There has, in my view, there been conspiracy of silence about how Northern Ireland ended up in this mess, under a different trading regime than the rest of the United Kingdom. It was due to an ill thought through and badly negotiated Brexit. My party warned about this, but sadly other louder voices prevailed. By 2019, Boris Johnson was Prime Minister and the DUP were propping up his government through a deal with the Conservative party.’

‘It was Boris Johnson who proposed to Brussels the idea of a border in the Irish Sea. He did so in a document called ‘Explanatory Note’ and published it on 2nd October 2019. The document also contained a proposal that traders from GB should notify the authorities in advance if they were moving goods to Northern Ireland! Quite a proposal from a so-called pro Unionist Prime Minister!’

‘But worse was to come. Later that day, the DUP put out a statement saying that his proposals were ‘a serious and sensible way forward.’

I have on numerous occasions tried to highlight this point, but people seem to want to cover up the DUP’s involvement in the genesis of the Irish Sea Border. Remember, they could have withdrawn support for the Johnson government and stopped the Protocol, but they chose not to do so. Why?’

‘I think they became intoxicated by Johnson’s bluster and empty promises.’

‘They have spent the last two years turning Northern Ireland upside down over the Protocol when they themselves initially give a welcome to the key proposals that eventually became the Protocol.’

‘This leads me on to what this Association has planned for the forthcoming General Election. I am delighted that you have selected Colonel Tim Collins as your candidate. Tim is a nationally known figure, regularly writing for major newspapers, (including this week in the Daily Mail), and he is widely listened to at Westminster.’

 ’It would be good to have a Northern Ireland MP with such a high profile, especially at this time of uncertainty and conflict in our troubled world.’

‘What I am certain of is that unionism should never again be exclusively represented at Westminster by DUP MPs. Their record is appalling. With the honourable exception of Lady Hermon, and a brief period between 2015 and 2017 when Tom Elliott and Danny Kinahan were in the Commons, they have had 20 years virtually unopposed in Westminster. During that period, they have led unionism from being a majority which they inherited from David Trimble, to being a decreasing minority at the polls. And during the period when they held the balance of power in London, they presided over the introduction of a border in the Irish Sea! You couldn’t make it up.’

‘The frustrating thing about this is that Northern Ireland could be in a very good position to make real social and economic progress. But despite the difficulties, we still have an exciting and emerging high-tech sector that has huge potential. Even our traditional sectors are showing signs of revival, Harland and Wolff being an example. If we can solve some of the short-term problems around agriculture, our farmers could lead a campaign for Northern Ireland to be a significant producer to give the UK greater food security in this uncertain world.’


‘In this constituency, there is evidence that some of our leavers are returning, housing costs and our education system being the main attractions. The quality of life here can be very high in certain places. So, wouldn’t it be better to have a pro Union MP for North Down promoting us as a place to do business within the Union, a place to live and educate your children, and a place that can make a real contribution to the life of the United Kingdom as a whole? Can we aspire to get away from the begging bowl politics of recent years and the disruption and collapse of our Institutions?’

‘I have no doubt that this constituency can do all of this again, and with Tim Collins this is a real possibility. I wish you well in the months ahead.’