When I was elected Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party I said that I was in the Ulster Unionist Party because I believed in its vision, its policies and its priorities.
At the heart of my Unionism is an unshakeable belief in a positive unionism, a confident unionism and an embracing unionism.
As we approach the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland it is very clear that some within nationalism and republicanism still do not accept the right of Northern Ireland to exist.
The Union has once again been placed at the forefront of political debate with recent suggestions of a post-Brexit border in the middle of the Irish sea, and suggestions by Michelle O’Neill that the rights of unionists could somehow be upheld in a future united Ireland. My role, and the role of the Ulster Unionist Party, is to promote the Union and build the case for it – to show that it is as relevant today as it ever was and to demonstrate the positive benefits that it offers to everybody in Northern Ireland.
For Ulster Unionists the Union is more than just the block grant. It is more than pounds, shillings and pence and what we can get out of Westminster. If you can be bought, then you can be sold, and our Unionism is most emphatically not for sale.
It is about centuries of kinship, tradition, culture and shared history.
As a Nation the United Kingdom and its constituent parts have celebrated success together and shared in some of the darkest of days.
The entire community has benefitted from the National Health Service and a welfare state that protects from the cradle to the grave. The United Kingdom has provided a platform for Northern Ireland people to play a role on a national and international stage in business and the arts. Many of our young people have been able to travel to Universities in Great Britain to pursue third level education.
This is our Union, a living, breathing, deep-rooted 365 days a year entity, which threatens no-one and benefits everyone in Northern Ireland.
Our right to live in peace within the Union for as long as the people of Northern Ireland want to do so, was guaranteed in the Belfast Agreement.
The confirmation of the principle of consent was an absolutely key part of the Agreement for Unionists, and it is rather curious today to see those who have in the past been so quick to lecture us about the need to protect the Belfast Agreement, be prepared to disregard such a fundamental principle when it becomes politically expedient to do so.
Indeed, it is hard to stress just how damaging and de-stabilising such a development would be.
The land border established between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in 1921 survived the Great Depression and the Second World War. It survived the IRA border campaign of 1956-62 and the Troubles. It remained in place when both the UK and Republic were not in the EEC and after we both joined. I can therefore see no reason why Brexit should create the need to eradicate almost a century of history and effectively remove the border.
It would be a strange type of unionist indeed who was prepared to countenance such a move and it would be a strange type of unionist who would endorse the idea of a border in the middle of the Irish Sea.
The futile pursuit of a border in the Irish Sea must be abandoned and minds must be focussed on finding solutions that work for everyone – a commitment that seems to have been forgotten in recent weeks.