Northern Ireland

Tories want Northern Ireland out of UK, says Lord Kilclooney

Lord Kilclooney said the Conservative Party want to see a united Ireland
Lord Kilclooney said the Conservative Party want to see a united Ireland Lord Kilclooney said the Conservative Party want to see a united Ireland

The Conservatives want Northern Ireland out of the UK, a veteran unionist politician has said amid concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Lord Kilclooney levelled the claim as the Tory Government was urged to be honest about the impact of a revamped deal with Brussels, which critics argue retains a border in the Irish Sea.

The DUP has been blocking powersharing at Stormont for more than a year and a half in protest at the internal UK trade barriers created by Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol.

The party has been involved in negotiations with the Government about the Windsor Framework, which reformed the protocol, and is seeking further assurances, by way of legislation, over Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market.

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Senior civil servants have been left in charge of devolved departments and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris had to intervene to set a budget.

Speaking at Westminster, DUP peer Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown warned: "Do not treat unionists as fools. We know a good deal when we see it, but we also know a bad deal when we see it.

"I believe the Windsor Framework is but another part of the gameplay to destroy the union."

Lord McCrea said "sensible proposals" for a frictionless border on the island of Ireland had been rejected by the EU, and the UK Government "collapsed rather than take a stand for the unity of the United Kingdom".

Intervening, former Ulster Unionist deputy leader Lord Kilclooney said: "When will the noble lord recognise that the Conservatives now want Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom?"

In response, Lord McCrea said: "Sad to say, everything they have been doing recently has led to that conclusion.

"Sad to say, also, many other people and parties within this chamber have a similar leaning. They want to humiliate unionists and they want to destroy the union."

Former Northern Ireland first minister and DUP leader Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee said: "While some in the Conservative Government may take his view, though not all, the Irish Times poll that was published over the weekend shows a clear majority of people in Northern Ireland who want to remain within the United Kingdom. It is important that we reference that."

Former senior judge and independent crossbencher Baroness Butler-Sloss said: "Speaking as an Englishwoman married for 64 years to an Ulsterman from County Down, I would like to stress how much English people care to keep Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom."

Former Labour MP Baroness Hoey, a Brexit supporter who sits as a non-affiliated peer, insisted the Windsor Framework "confirms the reality of the border in the Irish Sea".

She said: "The Government should know better than to try cynically to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of the United Kingdom.

"I call on the Government to level with people, be honest, acknowledge the truth and not try to hide it in words.

"The truth is that the border remains in the Irish Sea.

"The movement of goods continues to be subject to a border experience, with both bureaucratic requirements and checks as goods leave one internal market for goods and enter another."

Moving to reassure peers, Tory frontbencher Lord Harlech said he and his Government colleagues were "all dedicated unionists".