A senior DUP MP has said that increased calls for passport and customs controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK have not made him waver in his support for quitting the EU customs union and the single market.
Ian Paisley made the comment after an interview in which Ulster-born Labour MP Conor McGinn said that Dublin’s seeming call for a ‘sea border’ around Ireland – which the Irish government has now rowed back on – appears “logical” and the right solution if the UK leaves the customs union and the single market.
In an interview with the Irish News, the St Helens North MP – who has been a leading internal critic of Jeremy Corbyn – said: “There are far fewer people traversing the Irish Sea every day, so if it means we have to check customs, security, whatever else – which we sort of do already between the two islands – then that seems to me like an eminently sensible thing to do.”
However, Mr Paisley told the News Letter that the comments did not reflect “the private position which he has voiced” and were evidence of wider Labour confusion on Brexit.
He said: “It is a harder line for a Northern Ireland audience than he’s voiced privately at Westminster”.
Claiming that Labour was “all over the place” on what Brexit should look like, the North Antrim MP said: “The fact is that we are going to have the UK – including Northern Ireland – leaving the EU, leaving the customs union, leaving the single market and we’re going to be part of very good trade deals that Northern Ireland will benefit from and the south will be jealous of.”
When asked if the calls for a sea border between Northern Ireland and GB had made him think twice about leaving the customs union and single market, Mr Paisley said: “Not at all.”
The son of the DUP founder also took issue with Mr McGinn’s comment that “when there’s no functioning Executive Dublin is entitled to speak for its citizens”.
Mr Paisley said: “The Irish government are only entitled to speak for people who mandate it and they are the voters in the 26 counties – no one in Northern Ireland votes for anyone in the south of Ireland.
“To suggest they speak for [Northern Ireland] seems to be the most undemocratic, autocratic view of life and one which I thought we had moved away from.”