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FactCheck: Did a top EU official say 'Northern Ireland is the price to pay for Brexit'?

The claim was made in a video shared from a pro-unionist Twitter account.


AHEAD OF THE European elections in the UK today, a pro-unionist Twitter account shared a video that claimed that the Secretary-General of the European Commission, Martin Selmayr, said: “Northern Ireland is the price to pay for Brexit.”

The video has been widely shared, but an EU spokesperson has called the quote “fake, fraudulent and pure disinformation.”

But is it true? Did Selmayr say Northern Ireland would be the price for Brexit?

The claim

On 22 May 2019, a pro-unionist Twitter page with nearly 4,000 followers, NI in Union, released a video with the caption: “Stand up for Northern Ireland – Reject the Backstop: Use your Unionist Vote TOMORROW.” The two-minute long video was also released on Facebook from a page with the same name, which has 1,223 likes. The video encourages unionists to “stand up for Northern Ireland” and vote.

Video not loading? Click here to view.

In the video, music plays over a clip of Selmayr talking with the subtitles: “Northern Ireland is the price to pay for Brexit.” On Twitter, the tweet received nearly 100 re-tweets and prompted an intervention from the chief spokesperson of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, who said in a tweet: “The sentence attributed to the @EU_Commission Secretary General at 1:16 of this video is fake, fraudulent and pure disinformation that has been spread maliciously.”

Schinas’s comments prompted numerous media reports, citing his criticism of the video and denial of the quote’s veracity. Selmayr has not yet publicly commented on the video, but did today re-tweet a tweet from Pablo Pérez, the head of the social media sector at the European Commission, who said: “So Russia Today -RT- decides to mute @EU_Commission Secretary-General @MartinSelmayr words and totally invent and attribute him something else. They are not journalists. They are nothing but a Kremilin [sic] propapanda [sic] machine. Disgusting.” 

Tweet by @Pablo Pérez 🇪🇺 Source: Pablo Pérez 🇪🇺/Twitter

Video not loading? Click here to view.


The claim that Selmayr said that Northern Ireland was the price to pay for Brexit was made originally by former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab in an interview with the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper on 18 November 2018. Raab, who proved controversial during his tenure in the role, has proven himself an ardent Brexit backer and no-deal supporter since his resignation on 15 November 2018.

In the interview, published a few days after his resignation, he said: “There were certainly swirling dark forces in the commission, which you would hear rumbling that Northern Ireland was the price the United Kingdom must pay for leaving the EU… That’s totally irresponsible and reckless and not something we should give in to. The EU has become incredibly controlling and I think that’s a sign of their insecurity as an organisation.”

The article states:

Raab singles out the commission’s top civil servant, who revels in the nickname the “Monster of Brussels” for issuing these threats. “The trail always seems to lead back to Martin Selmayr. I don’t think we should be bullied by anyone. I’m just reporting back what has been reported to me from our diplomatic team.” 

The claim attracted attention on Twitter at the time and fueled Brexit supporters’ anger at the EU. Selmayr, a close ally of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, strongly denied Raab’s claim at the time: “Mr Raab and I never met. This may explain why he does not say the truth. The European Commission is working day and night to help ensuring [sic] an orderly Brexit. And just like we expect our UK partners to fully respect the integrity of the EU’s single market, we fully respect the integrity of the EU.”

Rabb repeated the claim days later. On 9 December 2018, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb told the Sophie Ridge on Sunday programme: “I was very surprised in particular about the way Northern Ireland was treated and you would hear, swirling around in Brussels, particularly the people around Selmayr, Martin Selmayr, in the Commission, and some others, that losing Northern Ireland would be the price the UK would pay for Brexit. This was reported to me through the diplomatic channel.” Raab accused the EU of “trying to carve up a major European nation.” 

This claim was re-reported by some UK media outlets and attracted some attention internationally


The video suggests that Martin Selmayr said the words: “Northern Ireland is the price to pay for Brexit.” There is no evidence that Martin Selmayr said this publicly. The quote originates from a claim made by Dominic Raab, following his resignation from cabinet, in several interviews. Raab also did not claim to have heard this directly from Selmayr, but instead from rumours he had been told by diplomatic staff in Brussels, meaning that they are second-hand claims.

Selmayr denied Rabb’s claim at the time and the quote contained in the video has been strongly rebutted and called “pure disinformation” by an EU spokesperson. 

However, it is impossible to verify the accuracy of Raab’s claim and factcheck something that may or may not have been said. 

As a result, we rate the claim that Martin Selmayr said that Northern Ireland is the price to pay for Brexit: UNPROVEN 

As per our verdict guide, this means: The evidence available is insufficient to support or refute the claim, but it is logically possible.’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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