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Full protocol implementation would mean economic tsunami, says DUP

Jeffrey Donaldson said that calling on the Northern Ireland Protocol to be implemented in full was ‘such folly’.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Image: James Manning/PA

Updated May 22nd 2022, 6:34 PM

IMPLEMENTING THE NORTHERN Ireland Protocol in full would result in “an economic tsunami” hitting Northern Ireland, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

Responding to a tweet from a member of the US House of Representatives, the DUP leader said that calling on the Northern Ireland Protocol to be implemented in full was “such folly”.

He said: “Implementing the protocol in full means ending grace periods, with an economic tsunami hitting Northern Ireland. Power sharing only works with cross community consensus.

“There is no unionist support for the protocol. The protocol will destroy the GFA if not dealt with.”

US House of Representatives’ member Brendan Boyle had called on the UK Government to “implement fully the NI Protocol, which avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, preserves the integrity of the EU Internal Market, and protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts”.

 

Earlier today, Alliance leader Naomi Long hit out at Westminster’s past treatment of Northern Ireland, saying he UK government has sometimes treated the region as “a bit of a play thing”, which is “damaging” relations and devolution.

featureimage Alliance Party leader Naomi Long Source: Liam McBurney/PA

“I understand [the DUP’s] lack of trust in the UK Government because I think at times the UK Government have used Northern Ireland as a bit of a play thing when it comes to maintaining a grievance with Europe,” Long told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

“They’re willing to continue to have this constant grievance with the European Union and Northern Ireland is a useful lever for them.

“But it’s very damaging for community relations and for good governance in Northern Ireland.”

The DUP has refused to elect a speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly in order to put pressure on the UK Government to change or remove the protocol.

Britain has insisted it is up to the EU to unblock political paralysis in Northern Ireland, after assuring a delegation from the US Congress of its “cast-iron” commitment to peace in the province.

The UK government has provoked anger on both sides of the Atlantic with a plan to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol, a trading arrangement that was agreed as part of its Brexit divorce deal with the EU.

In order to get past this impasse over the protocol, Long said that trust is needed.

She said: “What we need to do now is build trust with the European Union. We’re asking them essentially, to devolve the protection of the single market to the UK to allow us to have a green channel for goods coming from GB to Northern Ireland that won’t go any further.

“But for them to do that, they need to trust the UK government will do what it says it’s going to do.”

The East Belfast MLA said she understands why the DUP do not trust the British Government, and that the border friction is “difficult” for unionists, but added that it was an “inevitability as a consequence of Brexit”.

“Unfortunately, Brexit put borders and border friction back on the agenda, and that is very difficult for the very delicate ecology of Northern Ireland to deal with,” she said.

eu-referendum Naomi Long said Brexit ‘put borders and border friction back on the agenda’ Source: PA

“The protocol was an attempt, albeit, I would say, a rather heavy-handed attempt, to deal with those border frictions and to ensure there was still free flow across the border on the island of Ireland and no hard border established, but it did in the end lead to an additional level of friction in the Irish Sea.”

Reform

London is bidding to placate pro-UK unionists who are refusing to join a new power-sharing government in Belfast – led for the first time by pro-Irish nationalists – until the protocol is reformed.

Interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis demanded that Brussels adopt a new negotiating mandate to address the fierce objections of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

“I made this point to the EU myself before the [May 5] elections. My view was, it was much easier to get a deal before the elections than afterwards,” Lewis said.

“The idea that it was going to be easier after the elections was a crazy one from the EU.”

The protocol recognised Northern Ireland’s status as a fragile, post-conflict territory that shares the UK’s new land border with the EU.

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Keeping the border open with neighbouring Ireland, an EU member, was mandated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, given that the frontier was a frequent flashpoint during three decades of violence.

‘Frank’ discussion

But the protocol’s requirement for checks on goods arriving from England, Scotland and Wales has infuriated the DUP and other unionists, who say it drives a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Lewis said that the DUP, as the biggest unionist party, had a democratic mandate to back its position.

“And at the moment, the protocol, which the EU claims is about protecting the Good Friday Agreement, is the very document putting the Good Friday Agreement most at risk,” he said.

But the EU insists the protocol is not up for renegotiation.

And last week Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, warned that the UK could forget about a post-Brexit trade deal if it rewrites the agreement.

On Saturday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met in England with a congressional delegation led by Richard Neal, a senior member of Pelosi’s Democratic party in the House.

“We discussed our cast-iron commitment to the Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement, the importance of free trade and our condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” Truss tweeted.

The foreign ministry declined to comment further.

But according to Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday, Truss told Neal’s delegation that London could not let the “situation drag on” if the EU did not respond favourably.

Neal, however, stressed Washington’s “unity” with the EU after the members of Congress visited Brussels on Friday.

And after what he called the “frank” meeting with Truss, the Democrat tweeted on Sunday: “I urge good faith negotiations with the EU to find durable solutions for post-Brexit trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Additional reporting from AFP

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