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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
PA DUP MP Jim Shannon made the accusation in the House of Commons earlier today
# NI Protocol
DUP accuse SDLP, Alliance and Labour of being a 'pan-nationalist front' during Protocol debate
Jim Shannon’s comments were criticised by Alliance MP Stephen Farry, who called for Shannon to reflect on what he said.

A DUP MP has accused the SDLP, Alliance Party and the UK Labour Party of being a “pan-nationalist front” amid debates on amendments to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill earlier today.

DUP MP for Strangford Jim Shannon made the accusation after parties tabled amendments to the Bill, which seeks to override large swathes of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“I oppose the amendments, I oppose the rationale behind them by the pan-nationalist front of the SDLP, the Alliance Party and some of the Labour Party here,” said Shannon.

Shannon’s comments were criticised by Alliance MP Stephen Farry, who called for Shannon to reflect on what he said.

“Could I ask him to reflect on the use of the term ‘pan-nationalist front’? I appreciate that is a heated debate but it is my understanding that there has been guidance from the chair around the use of temperate language,” Farry said.

“The use of the term pan-nationalist front has actually led people to be put under threat in terms of their lives. It is a dangerous concept that implies that both my party and the SDLP are in some kind of league with other, nefarious forces who are trying to do certain things to people.”

Commons Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans encouraged MPs to use temperate language, acknowledging that the Bill was “emotional and sensitive”.

Following this, the legislation cleared the House Of Commons after MPs voted 267 to 195 to give the bill a third reading.

No amendments were made despite submissions from the opposition, with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis saying he hopes supporters of the legislation within Northern Ireland “may not have to wait too long” for them to become law.

chris-pincher-resignation PA Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis PA

But peers are expected to contest parts of the Bill when they consider it after the summer recess, setting up a lengthy showdown between the two Houses.

The protocol is aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland but has created a series of economic barriers on Irish Sea trade.

Boris Johnson’s Government has said measures in the Bill to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.

But the plans have been widely criticised by the EU while Tory former prime minister Theresa May is among those to question the legality of the Bill.

Ellis, speaking at third reading, said the UK Government has “no choice” but to proceed unilaterally.

He told MPs: “Unfortunately, whilst our door is always open, there does not appear to be a fruitful negotiation to be had with the European Union at present.”

Ellis added on the measures: “We hope those eagerly waiting for them to come to pass in Northern Ireland will take heart that they may not have to wait too long and that the House of Commons has heard them.

“I hope (DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson) and his party will hear it too and continue their moves towards returning to powersharing.”

Donaldson, DUP MP for Lagan Valley, warned the Lords to be “wise” when considering changes to the Bill.

He said: “Whilst they may be tempted to make radical changes to the Bill, they need to understand that the choice is not merely one determining whether this Bill is a good thing or not, but this Bill is essential to protect the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement, to protect political stability in Northern Ireland, to restore the political institutions in Northern Ireland, to restore the consensus that is at the heart of powersharing.

“That is the choice, and if they should choose to try and wreck the Bill, then they need to understand that in so doing they are also destroying the consensus, the basis, the foundations for the Belfast Agreement.”

He added: “Do they want to protect the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement and restore stability in Northern Ireland, restore the consensus that is required for that agreement to operate, or not? I put that choice to them and I hope they will be wise in the decisions they have to make.”

SDLP MP Colum Eastwood (Foyle) asked: “Will the DUP now take the opportunity to go back into Stormont to live up to their responsibilities as democratically-elected leaders in Northern Ireland and do the job that people are crying out for them to do?

brexit PA SDLP MP Colum Eastwood PA

“If they don’t, the SDLP will put a recall motion into the Northern Ireland Assembly tonight, asking them to come back in to nominate a speaker in the Northern Ireland Assembly and to nominate a deputy first minister, who I hope will be the member for Lagan Valley.”

Eastwood added: “We have to get back, despite all the talk of the Good Friday Agreement, we have to get back to working together, to working the common ground, to dealing with the issues in our health service and our economy, and all those issues that people say they care about.

“We will not be able to do that if we stay out of government for months upon months upon months – that is how long this Bill is going to take to get royal assent.”

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