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Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance jointly write to Boris Johnson to condemn 'reckless' Protocol bill

The letter represents a majority of MLAs in Stormont but no unionists signed it.

(L to R) Naomi Long, Colm Eastwood and Michelle O'Neill. (File)
(L to R) Naomi Long, Colm Eastwood and Michelle O'Neill. (File)
Image: Niall Carson

STORMONT MLAS from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party have joined together to write to Boris Johnson expressing their opposition to his government’s “reckless” Protocol bill.

The bill is set to be tabled by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss later today and will outline plans to to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol that was agreed between the UK and the EU. 

Unionists politicians are seeking changes to the arrangement, with the DUP blocking the operation of the Stormont Assembly as part of its opposition to the Protocol as its currently instituted. 

A majority of MLAs elected to Assembly last month are in favour of the Protocol and in their letter today said that it “offers clear economic advantages to our region”.

The letter has been signed by 52 of the 90 MLAs, including all nationalist members of the Assembly and all Alliance Party members, who designate as ‘other’. No unionist MLAs signed the letter.

The letter to Johnson states that the signatories “reject in the strongest possible terms your government’s reckless new protocol legislation, which flies in the face of the expressed wishes of not just most businesses, but most people in Northern Ireland”.

It continues that “whilst not ideal, the protocol currently represents the only available”.

While we share a desire to see the arrangements work as smoothly as possible, the way to achieve this is through engagement with the European Union. It is clear that solutions are available and deliverable – as have already been delivered in the area of medicines – but this must be on the basis of trust and the rule of law rather than law breaking and unilateral abrogation of treaty obligations.

“It is also deeply frustrating that you and your ministers continue to misrepresent our desire to see smooth implementation as an endorsement of your Government’s reckless actions on the Protocol – it is categorically not.”

In response to the letter DUP MP Sammy Wilson tweeted:  

Not one Unionist MLA supports the Northern Ireland Protocol. Power sharing will not be restored until decisive action is taken to remove the Irish Sea Border. There will be no return to the status quo.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement between the EU and UK following Brexit and was designed as a way of preventing the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The Protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU Single Market for goods but also keeps Northern Ireland in the UK’s Customs territory.

While the unique arrangement offers potential advantages for NI businesses to operate in both territories, unionists have criticised it because it has required some checks to be carried out on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland.

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Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Northern Ireland institutions will be periodically asked to consent on the continuation of the Protocol, with the first such vote due to take place in December 2024. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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