Twin track approach of restoring institutions and dealing with Windsor Framework challenges required – Beattie

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Twin track approach of restoring institutions and dealing with Windsor Framework challenges required – Beattie

UUP Leader Doug Beattie MC MLA said:


“The last number of weeks have provided an opportunity for reflection on the achievement that was the signing of the Belfast Agreement.  It was a defining moment of leadership.  One that has ensured that the last twenty-five years in Northern Ireland have been better than the twenty-five before 1998.   


“As we move forward the key challenge is to see devolution restored.  Ulster Unionism’s key mission is the maintenance of the Union and providing a vision for the people of Northern Ireland.  It is my firm belief that this is most effectively achieved by working the institutions of the Agreement.  That means Unionism advocating for itself and directly influencing decisions that will affect us from the platform provided by the Assembly and Executive.  


“I believe that a twin track approach can be taken here in restoring the institutions while continuing to address the challenges posed by the Windsor Framework.  There are lessons to be learned from the conflict between the text of the Belfast Agreement and its implementation.  I think it is right that Unionism should continue to pay close attention to the Windsor Framework and seek clarifications and certainties.


“The Ulster Unionist Party will always welcome any measure, legislative or otherwise, that helps to strengthen Northern Ireland’s place within the Union and give confidence where confidence is needed.  I would urge the Prime Minister to move immediately to reveal exactly what his intentions are on this matter, outlining what Statutory Instruments are being considered and how they will interact with the Belfast Agreement.  While his proposals remain subject to speculation, it will continue to provide an excuse that delays the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.   


“We must have certainty.  Not least because this continued instability only serves to create a vacuum that will be filled by those who oppose the peace process.  We have seen in recent weeks that while they may be small in number, they still pose a danger to our society. 


“The Ulster Unionist Party remains convinced of the benefits of devolution and will continue to play our part in working to see a situation where the institutions are restored.  Our view on the way ahead is based on three central pillars:   


1.    Government. The Ulster Unionist Party believes that Stormont should be restored without delay.  Families are facing a huge financial challenge and public services are being given no direction.  Furthermore, by continuing to make Northern Ireland not work, the DUP is running the risk of justifying Sinn Fein’s assertion that Northern Ireland is ‘a failed political entity.’  The continuing absence of functioning Institutions is an obstacle to investment and creates an atmosphere of uncertainty. The enemies of democracy will be willing to fill the vacuum so created. 


2.    Opportunity. The restoration of the Assembly and Executive will enable a major drive to be made to attract inward investment to Northern Ireland and help restore the confidence of indigenous investors. We should harness the help of all in a major drive to create jobs locally and bring investors to our shores. We should begin with a restored Executive establishing a sub-committee to pursue this initiative and revisit the possibility of reducing Corporation Tax in Northern Ireland to enable us to compete with the Republic. The US special economic envoy could play a crucial role here. Targeting investors from Great Britain and the EU are obvious places to start with a major selling point being our unimpeded access to both UK and EU markets. 


3.    Challenges. The Windsor Framework is an improvement on the original Protocol, in so far as checks will be reduced in number and data sharing can help. But the fact is that a border still exists in the Irish Sea, the EU Court remains supreme in determining the application of EU law in Northern Ireland, and Brussels will continue to make laws and regulations for Northern Ireland over which neither Stormont nor Westminster has a veto.  Hauliers tell us that huge problems remain for them and companies in GB are put off trading in Northern Ireland because of the bureaucracy.  All of this is unsatisfactory, and clear constitutional challenges to the Union remain to be resolved. We again suggest that a restored Executive establishes a sub-committee to address all of these matters.  Should some Executive parties not engage with this process then Ulster Unionists will co-operate with those who wish to do so.  Should that mean that only Unionist Ministers take up the challenge we will work with them to deal with these issues head on. We will have more effect on these matters dealing with them as Ministers rather than be spectators with no say or part in our governance here. 


“I see this approach as offering an opportunity to repair some of the damage that has been caused by an ill-thought out and underprepared for Brexit.  One which will enable us to create an economic benefit for all our people.  


“It is now approaching two months since the Windsor Framework was published.  By now everybody should have been able to reach a considered view.  It would be intolerable for the DUP to try to bluff their way through the upcoming elections without revealing where they stand.  


“I have no doubt that they are headed towards a return to Stormont.  I would appeal to them to show leadership and do it now and we will stand with them in delivering fully functioning devolved government.  Our people are the ones who are ultimately penalised while the institutions remain dormant.”