REACH UK Statement – 13/2/21

Reach UK endorses the 5 point plan from our countries First Minister and call on all to engage with it as a first step to resolving the divisive Irish Sea Border and NI Protocol. We also ask all within Northern Ireland to sign the relevant petition extending the 100,000 signatures to 250,000, not as a political party exercise but as a measure of province wide opposition to the NI Protocol and Irish Sea Border. We also pledge every support to those legal professionals within the pro union business community who may wish to launch a legal challenge to the protocol and end the uncertainty within all our lives. Reach UK is a non political entity and stress that these should not be seen as party political initiatives but as a societal imperative for us all. We implore all to set aside selfish or political career interests and work for a solution to the benefit of all within Northern Ireland. Reach UK calls on all parties in Northern Ireland to engage calmly and rationally with the UK government to address the NI Protocol and Irish Sea Border issues which are causing such alarm within our communities. As a possible way forward we support the idea, as we understand it, from The Centre for Brexit Policy’s proposal that Mutual Enforcement can provide the way forward. This arrangement would see the UK and EU recognising each others products and services in law, thereby negating the need for checks on goods going between UK and Northern Ireland. As Owen Patterson states under this arrangement only checks on goods going between EU and UK are required allowing for UK sovereignty to be protected and the Irish Sea Border to be abandoned. Mutual Enforcement works by inverting the normal approach to customs enforcement with compliance placed as law on the exporter of the exporting territory, critically the importing territory asserts its jurisdiction beyond its border and the border position becomes redundant. If Lord Trimble, whose role in bringing about the GFA is often downplayed, can support this, we feel it needs to be addressed as a sensible way forward. Furthermore on behalf of all Pro Union people we urge the UK government to fulfil the spirit of its published White Paper which commits to “delivering unfettered access for NI businesses to the whole UK market”, enshrining this principle in law as promised in the New Decade New Approach agreement also that the UK Internal Market will support our commitments on unfettered access, ensuring that they form part of a coherent UK wide system.

As to the Good Friday Agreement, this has been promoted during Brexit, by those in Eire, the EU and USA as a totally Green document serving only Republican/Nationalist interests. The dangers of this blatant sectarian approach have been highlighted by our members to the Eire and UK governments over several years to no avail. The EUs aggressive triggering of Article 16, immediately effecting a hard border on this Island, after years of issuing threats against any such move has driven a stake through the heart of the GFA which may yet prove fatal. Should all pro union stakeholders gradually withdraw support from the political process of the Good Friday Agreement, history will record that it was the EU that killed it.

Indeed if the GFA cannot be implemented inclusively then Billy Hutchinson’s recent assessment that Pro Union citizens will have no choice but to withdraw all support from the GFA would seem to be the only way forward. Were it not for the intensive work of the PUP and UPRG the GFA would never have been delivered, an inconvenient truth for many, so when people like Councillor and Party Leader Billy Hutchinson make this assessment it needs to be listened to. After his article, an example of being demonize occurred when he was dismissed as “a Loyalist Activist” rather than by his position or title by journalists, thus implying he is somehow “shady“. This in the same week as our First Minster being referred to as “Foster“ on television. These offensive discourtesies which never seem to be applied to Republicans only serve to alienate our community along with the Medias continuous referring to Loyalists as Terrorists but the IRA as Operatives. However these pale into significance compared to the SDLP and Alliance hysteria and sectarian contempt vented on those members from the pro union community who dared to engage in democratic and lawful discussions with civil servants on the future of our country, this from parties who engage on a daily basis with “former”(?) Republican terrorists who voted in council in support of Sinn Fein IRA proposals over 85% of the time in a twelve month period, and who continue to sanitise the IRA and its litany of crimes since the days of the Pan Nationalist Front. This contempt for all things Unionist highlighted long ago as a cold house in 2002 by SOS John Reid and again by Tony Blairs right hand man Jonathon Powell when he acknowledged that the UK government, Eire government and others had pandered to every whim of the IRA and left behind and ignored the PUL community have contributed to the current sense of alienation and betrayal, and needs to be addressed urgently.

If we are to continue to resolve our differences by peaceful dialogue then Taoiseach Michael Martin should apologise for the extreme and belligerent attitude taken at all times by Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney during Brexit discussions. With the backing of 28 EU countries they attempted to steam roll over the GFA protections promised also to the pro union citizens in Northern Ireland, a different attitude would have brought us to a better place today, and not destroyed 20 years of genuine North South cooperation and good neighbourliness. Perhaps the appointment of a Special Ambassador in the mould of Bertie Ahearn to repair North South relations would be the first step of conciliation between our two nations, he would find in the Ulster people integrity, courtesy and forgiveness.

REACH UK committed to an inclusive and diverse society for all within the British Isles.