Theresa May's appalling backstop proposals for Northern Ireland bring home more than ever the need for a strong UK Unionist stance in the Brexit negotiations. It is quite astonishing that in such a major national issue, such a basic value as the very territorial integrity of the United Kingdom itself has been so absent in the process so far.
How did it reach this point where the government could think it is acceptable to sacrifice Britain's unity to Brussels, in exchange for a 'worst of both worlds' deal that leaves us paying billions to Brussels every year and chained to the EU's Customs Union, while at the same time erecting a new border down the Irish Sea to sever Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom and force it into regulatory alignment with Dublin and Brussels?
For decades now successive governments have been carving up and balkanising the United Kingdom through the devolution process, and in doing so retreating from the very concept of a unitary British nation. In Scotland power after power has been handed to the Scottish 'parliament', creating a devolved assembly with powers that go massively beyond its original remit granted following the 1997 referendum. A similar trend can be seen in Wales, while in Northern Ireland Stormont has repeatedly been left empty and barren of government for years at a time as opposition parties are unable to come to agreement in the mandatory coalition system. This of course should hardly be surprising - the entire purpose of Sinn Fein as a party is to make the Union fail, and that is abundantly clear from their refusal to participate constructively in the devolved coalition system.
This is the backdrop to Theresa May's backstop proposals for Northern Ireland, which treat it as somehow 'alien' and 'other' to the rest of the United Kingdom. Too many London governments have viewed Northern Ireland as a place apart, and indeed Scotland and Wales also. The EU also has its hand in these trends; its notorious regionalisation plans contributed at least in part to the roll-out of devolution across the UK under Tony Blair's first New Labour government. As fierce opponents of the traditional nation state system, the last thing Eurocrats want to see is a strong and united UK, serving as a bulwark against the centralising power centre in Brussels.
This should highlight all the more to proponents of Britain's sovereignty the need for a truly UK Unionist exit from the European Union. We must assert firmly the unitary, indivisible integrity of the United Kingdom; a defining feature of our constitution written into the unions of 1707 and 1801. Our message to Brussels must be clear: Britain's unity is not for sale.
This UK Unionist perspective is absolutely central to a successful exit from the EU. The mandate to leave after all was a UK-wide mandate, delivered from our parliamentary perspective most decisively in the June 2017 General Election, when 86% of MPs were elected on manifesto commitments to leave the EU, Single Market and Customs Union including all Labour, Conservative and DUP MPs.
We are unique amongst anti-EU parties in asserting these UK Unionist principles, including the need for a sovereign and secure border with the Republic of Ireland where customs and identity checks will be applied as they would at any ordinary international border. If there is one core principle above all else that is central to restoring our sovereignty, it is this: we must leave the EU as One United Kingdom. No internal borders, no backstop, and no part of the United Kingdom left behind.