Disappointment as ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland proposal shot down

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy and DUP MEP Dianne Dodds.
Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy and DUP MEP Dianne Dodds.

A decision by countries within the European Union not to award special status for Northern Ireland post Brexit has been branded “disappointing” by Sinn Fein.

DUP MEP Dianne Dodds however has claimed that the result showed a “charm offensive” at European Union level by those who were opposed to Brexit has not worked.

The motion calling for special status was tabled at the European Parliament on Wednesday by the European United Left - Nordic Green Left bloc.

It called for the protection of the Belfast Agreement during the UK exit from the EU, as well as special status to allow for free movement of people and goods across Ireland, access to the EU, the single market and European Court of Justice.

Despite 56% of people in the north having voted to remain within the European Union in the Brexit vote, the motion tabled this week was overwhelmingly rejected by MEPs by 374 votes to 66.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy however said his party will continue to build support for designated special status for the North within the EU.

The Sinn Féin MEP said: “The outcome of today’s vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg is disappointing. This amendment was not put forward by Sinn Féin.

“It is equally disappointing that both the DUP and Fine Gael MEPs voted against the democratically expressed will of the people of the north and Dáil Éireann.

“Sinn Féin is continuing to build support for the case for the north to secure designated special status within the EU.

“We have already ensured that the European Parliament is in agreement that the Good Friday Agreement should be protected in all its parts.”

Mr Carthy said that the European Council’s negotiation guidelines support the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement and recognise the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland and the need for flexible and imaginative solutions.

“We are engaging with hundreds of political representatives and officials from across Europe in order to gather further support for special status for the north within the EU and will continue to do so,” he added.

However the DUP’s Dianne Dodds claimed that since last June ,Sinn Fein and others have made a special designated status their “big ticket priority” for Brexit.

“Their plan would see Northern Ireland remain under Brussels control while the rest of the UK leaves,” she said. “This would prevent our Province from harnessing new opportunities which flow from Brexit as an integral part of the Union. Critically it would also cut us off from the GB market - by far the most importance marketplace for local goods and services from Northern Ireland.

“It is clear that support for this scenario has gained little traction. The negotiating guidelines published by the European Parliament and Council earlier this year make no reference to a special designated status and both Governments in London and Dublin have failed to back the proposal. Ultimately this week’s vote by MEPs is further demonstration that Sinn Fein’s Brexit charm offensive has failed miserably.”

Mrs Dodds said that within the European Institutions there was “widespread recognition” of Northern Ireland’s unique position in respect of our land border with the Republic of Ireland.

“Across the spectrum there is a willingness to give particular attention to these special circumstances in the exit talks that have begun,” she said. “However we are clear that any solution agreed must respect that Northern Ireland will be an integral part of an independent United Kingdom.

“Moving forward the DUP will continue to work tirelessly, engaging closely with stakeholders across sectors affected, and using our influence both at Westminster and in Brussels, to ensure that our Province gets the best possible deal from Brexit.”