Today sees the launch of a new campaign called UNITING UK. Our aim is to grow support for Northern Ireland’s continued position as part of the United Kingdom. We will do this by promoting the many benefits of being part of the family of UK nations. We are not a political party and welcome support from all who share our values and goals. Our focus is on people who feel left behind by traditional unionism such as young people, liberals and minorities.
UNITING UK believes in an open and inclusive United Kingdom. We support devolution and driving down decision making to the most appropriate levels and want to help build a Northern Ireland that works for all its citizens. Only as part of the UK can we maintain our current global influence for good. We play a decisive role in fighting global warming and protecting our environment, in maintaining our mutual security and in helping to reduce inequality and poverty throughout the world. Our islands have a shared culture and history that is intertwined through generations of immigration, trade and family. We understand the benefits from sharing wealth within the UK and this has been well illustrated by the additional £2.5 billion provided by the Treasury to support Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Union is under pressure from Brexit, the Scottish independence movement and a growing sense of disunity amplified by the disjointed response across the UK to coronavirus. A Border Poll is increasingly on the political agenda, with a number of pro-Irish unity groups campaigning for a referendum. The Irish government’s Shared Island Unit has added to this momentum. There has also been the recent launch of interim proposals on how a referendum would be delivered by academics in the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland which has added to the growing debate.
Even with all this activity, there is still no imminent prospect of a Border Poll and, even if there were, the consensus is that the status quo would win comfortably. However, as former DUP Leader Peter Robinson recently warned, those in favour of maintaining the Union should not be in denial and must prepare for a future referendum. Despite his warning, Mr Robinson seems to share the same approach as many others within the pro Union camp, that ‘someone should do something’.
UNITING UK has been formed ‘to do something’ but our focus is different. We understand that there are changes taking place in Northern Ireland. More of us are refusing to be constrained by traditional political labels. Our attitudes have evolved on social issues and our voting patterns are more fluid. We see people all over Northern Ireland, and young people in particular, wanting to change our country for the better. Traditional unionism has failed to adapt to or engage with these voices in a meaningful and positive way. We want to offer a new direction.
UNITING UK argues that the Union is a two-way street and that we need to promote Northern Ireland’s contribution to the Union in Great Britain. The UK’s future direction may well be decided in Scotland or England as much as on the island of Ireland. That is why our name and logo is both Northern Ireland and UK focused. By working with other groups across England, Scotland, and Wales we aim to develop greater constitutional, cultural, social and political linkages to promote and grow the many benefits of the United Kingdom. ‘NI IN’ is our key message and our purpose is to educate, communicate, research and campaign to grow the Union and prepare for any future referendum.
UNITING UK is forward looking and embraces a future were all four nations and regions of the United Kingdom are secure and content as partners in building a prosperous, peaceful and outwardly focused country. We are not prisoners of our past. We do not judge the merits of our country on the performance of the current Westminster government, the NI Executive nor even on major political events like Brexit. These issues are fluid, but we must take the longer view.
The focus of UNITING UK is on the future, on telling the positive stories, and on building a better Northern Ireland. We see the potential that lies ahead and what may be achieved by working together, uniting the UK. Our task is to persuade people across our country that it continues to be the right path for Northern Ireland to remain within the UK.