Robinson in no position to lecture given the strategic errors made under his leadership - Aiken

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Robinson in no position to lecture given the strategic errors made under his leadership - Aiken

Responding to comments made by former DUP leader, Peter Robinson, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, said:

“I noted Peter Robinson`s comments about the Ulster Unionist Party.


“It`s time to set the record straight about how unionism got into the position it is in today. Unlike the DUP, the Ulster Unionist Party has always opposed the Protocol. When Boris Johnson first published his proposals for an amended protocol on 2 October 2019 which stated that the proposal set out in this note would see regulatory checks applying between Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ and ‘Agri foods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain would do so via a Border Inspection Post or Designated Point of entry as required by EU law’,  the then DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed them as ‘a serious and sensible way forward.’


In contrast, on the 2 October 2019, the then UUP leader, Robin Swann MLA, stated that ‘this new protocol should be deeply concerning for all those who have the long term economic and constitutional welfare of Northern Ireland and its people at heart.’


“I warned the DUP on 3 October 2019 that they were ‘playing Russian roulette with the future of the United Kingdom.Yet the DUP ploughed on regardless.


“In an interview with BBC`s Spotlight programme on 2 March 2020, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said, in the end customs checks doesn’t mean that you change the constitutional status of a part of the United Kingdom, that’s not going to happen.’


“Then in an interview with BBC Good Morning Ulster on 27 May 2020, when Edwin Poots was asked by Chris Buckler, Do you think that has the potential of damaging trade or do you think that there are opportunities with what is to come? With this ability to trade with the EU as well?’, Edwin Poots` response was to say, ‘we need to maximise the advantages and to minimize the disadvantages.’


“The DUP`s fingerprints were all over the Protocol whilst our record in opposition to it has been consistent since the day it was published. I welcome the fact that they had a road to Damascus conversion and have come over to our way of thinking. The Ulster Unionist Party said the Protocol was a bad deal from the very start and we brought forward alternatives and solutions to the break the impasse, some of which were included in the UK Government`s Command Paper from July 2021 and form the basis of the potential landing zone for negotiations.


“Whilst we have common ground with the DUP`s latest position on the Protocol, in opposition to it, where we differ is tactics. We have brought forward alternatives, we have engaged with the UK Government, EU, Irish Government and US State Department, and believe that negotiations are the best way forward. The DUP have brought down Stormont. I don`t think that it is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland in the face of a cost-of-living crisis nor for the long-term benefit of Unionism.


“It is ironic that Peter Robinson is now stepping forward to give advice to the DUP. It was under his leadership that the Belfast Agreement was changed at St Andrews, amending the way in which the First and deputy First Ministers are elected in the Assembly. If those changes hadn`t been made, a DUP MLA would today be First Minister designate, not Michelle O`Neill. And that is down to the DUP. Peter Robinson is in no position to lecture the Ulster Unionist Party given the huge strategic errors made whilst he was leader of the DUP which have harmed unionism in the long run.”