European Parliament rejects special status for Northern Ireland

DUP says Sinn Féin ‘big ticket priority’ to see North remain in EU gained little traction

The proposal called for the Belfast Agreement to by upheld as part of the UK’s exit from the EU.   Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The proposal called for the Belfast Agreement to by upheld as part of the UK’s exit from the EU. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

MEPs have voted against a proposal to give Northern Ireland special designated status in the European Union.

In a blow to Sinn Féin, the proposal from the European United Left - Nordic Green Left of which it is a member, was rejected by MEPs by 374 votes to 66.

The proposal, voted on in Brussels on Wednesday, called for the Belfast Agreement to by upheld as part of the UK’s exit from the EU.

It called for the North to be designated with a special status so access to EU membership, the Customs Union, the Single Market and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would be maintained.

It also called for the freedom of movement of goods, people and services on the island of Ireland.

In last year’s Brexit referendum, 56 per cent of the Northern Ireland electorate voted to remain in the EU.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said it was clear Sinn Féin’s “big ticket priority” to see the North remain in the EU had 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,” she said. “Ultimately this week’s vote by MEPs is further demonstration that Sinn Féin’s Brexit charm offensive has failed miserably.”

Ms Dodds also said while EU institutions recognised Northern Ireland’s “unique position” in respect of the Irish Border “any solution agreed must respect that Northern Ireland will be an integral part of an independent United Kingdom”.

She added: “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.”

A Sinn Féin spokesman described the outcome as disappointing but noted the amendment had not been put forward by the party.

“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,” he said. “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.

“Moreover, 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.”