Brexit: EU is playing ‘hardball’ with Northern Ireland says Hoey
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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a resolution over changing the post-Brexit trading arrangements in the region was urgently needed within weeks rather than months. If this did not happen, he hinted that DUP ministers at Stormont would also not collaborate in implementing the EU’s rules if no progress was made on the Protocol.
The Protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by the UK and Brussels, effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
This means checks on goods being sent from Great Britain into the single market in some cases could result in prohibitions on certain products that do not comply with EU rules.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has put forward plans to renegotiate the Protocol, which he set out in a Command Paper last month.
Mr Donaldson, who is leading Unionist concern against the trading arrangements argued they “must go” as it creates an Irish Sea border which “contravenes Article 6 of the Act of Union [of the UK]”.
He added: “The protocol which created that border undermines the right of the people of Northern Ireland to trade freely within the UK and those barriers have got to be removed.”
The Lagan Valley MP also issued a stark warning to Lord Frost saying the “clock is ticking” to find a solution else political instability would increase.
Mr Donaldson said: “The harm that this protocol is doing is real, so it is vital that action is taken soon.
“I am talking about weeks and not months, and that if it doesn’t happen then the capacity for political instability will increase.
“Now that is not something I want to happen, as I want to see solutions coming forward quickly.
“But let me be clear: if those solutions are not forthcoming then, if the UK Government fails to follow through on what it has committed to do, undoubtedly that will have implications.”
He also warned the DUP could begin a boycott of the North-South institutions established by the 1998 Belfast Agreement if progress was not forthcoming.
The politician, who is the DUP’s third leader this year after the resignation of Edwin Poots and Arlene Foster, also signalled that he didn’t fully trust Boris Johnson on dealing with the Protocol.
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Asked if trusted Mr Johnson, he said: “Well I can’t be sure, and I am not taking anything on trust alone.
“That is why we have made clear that any solution has to have the consent and support of unionists.
“Not one unionist party supports this protocol.
“I think the Prime Minister now ‘gets it’ in terms of recognising that the protocol undermines political as well as economic stability.”
The Express understands DUP chiefs are keen for progress to be secured by late August or early September before the return of the House of Commons.
The UK Government has urged the EU to “closely examine” Lord Frost’s plan to resolve the trading issues.
Shirley McCay, the UK Government’s director of trade and investment in Ireland, added: “If the EU takes the time to stand still, reflect and examine the options put forward it will be a good thing.”
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