Unionists should ‘save wins’ in new Brexit trade deal, says Julian Smith

Mr Smith was in Northern Ireland on Saturday to address an Ulster Unionist Party gala dinner to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP is currently blocking the return in Stormont in protest of post-Brexit trade deals that have created economic barriers between the region and Britain.

The barriers were first introduced under the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement.

The UK and the EU agreed to the new Windsor Framework as a way to reduce the red tape created by the protocol.

While the DUP says the Windsor Framework has done something to address its concerns about the protocol, it says some major issues remain.

He has opposed the framework in Westminster and has made it clear that his boycott of Stormont will continue until he gets more assurances on his concerns about EU sovereignty and law enforcement in Northern Ireland.

The EU and the UK say the application of some EU laws is necessary in Northern Ireland to maintain the region’s unrestricted access to the European single market after Brexit.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Smith encouraged unionists who had concerns about the framework to capitalize on the economic opportunities he said it presents.

The Conservative MP, who was central to a deal that restored Stormont’s power-sharing in 2020 after a three-year standoff, said Northern Ireland’s place within the UK was secure.

He was in the region to address the UUP dinner 25 years after its former leader, the late Lord Trimble, helped secure the Good Friday deal.

The UUP has said that while the framework presents serious challenges, it also offers economic opportunities and the party supports a return to devolution in Stormont.

“Thanks to the efforts of the UUP and Lord Trimble, the principle of consent is enshrined,” said Mr Smith.

“Northern Ireland will never leave this Union if its people don’t want it and I can’t see the circumstances in which they would.”

He added: “We should defend trade links, investment opportunities and the growth of the economy.

“We should fully agree that Northern Ireland’s place in the world’s fifth largest economy makes it an incredibly attractive place to invest.”

The comments were included in a speech Smith was due to deliver at dinner at the Culloden Hotel outside Belfast on Saturday.

“With the Windsor Framework, unionism has an opportunity to move forward, accumulate victories and set the agenda,” he said.

“I know this party instinctively knows the right way to go, as do my friend Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP leader) and many other friends of the DUP.

“This is the time to have confidence in the protections brought by the Good Friday Agreement and support for the Union in Northern Ireland and focus on the real prize.”


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