Updated 4 hours ago
Full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol 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 calling for the full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol was “such madness”.
He said: “Full implementation of the protocol means the end of grace periods, with an economic tsunami hitting Northern Ireland. Power sharing only works with cross-community consensus.
“There is no union support for the protocol. The protocol will destroy the GFA if left untreated.
Member of the United States House of Representatives Brendan Boyle had called on the British government to “fully implement the NI Protocol, which avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, preserves the integrity of the internal market of the EU and protects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts”.
Such madness. Full implementation of the protocol means the end of grace periods with an economic tsunami hitting Northern Ireland. Power sharing only works with cross-community consensus. There is no union support for the protocol. The protocol will destroy the GFA if left untreated. https://t.co/ZWwhRTuST1
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP)
Earlier today, Alliance leader Naomi Long blasted Westminster’s past treatment of Northern Ireland, saying the UK government had at times treated the region as “a bit of a game”, which “damages” relationships and decentralization.
Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance Party
Credit: Liam McBurney/PA
“I understand [the DUP’s] lack of trust in the UK government because I think the UK government has sometimes used Northern Ireland as a game when it comes to maintaining a grievance with Europe,” Long told the Sophy show Ridge On Sunday from Sky News.
“They are ready to continue to have this constant grievance with the European Union and Northern Ireland is a useful lever for them.
“But it is very damaging to community relations and to good governance in Northern Ireland.”
The DUP refused to elect a speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly in order to pressure the UK government to change or scrap the protocol.
Britain has insisted it is up to the EU to unblock political paralysis in Northern Ireland, after assuring a US Congress delegation of its ‘iron’ commitment to peace in the province.
The British government has provoked anger on both sides of the Atlantic with a plan to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol, a trade deal that was agreed as part of its divorce deal with the EU.
To break this deadlock over protocol, Long said trust is needed.
She said: “What we need to do now is build trust with the European Union. We are basically asking them to delegate the protection of the single market to the UK to enable us to have a green channel for goods from Britain to Northern Ireland that will go no further.
“But for them to do that, they have to trust that the UK government will do what they say they are going to do.”
The East Belfast MP said she understood why the DUP did not trust the UK government and border friction was ‘difficult’ for trade unionists, but added it was ‘an inevitable consequence of Brexit “.
“Unfortunately Brexit has put borders and border friction back on the agenda, and that is very difficult to manage for the very delicate ecology of Northern Ireland,” she said.
Naomi Long said Brexit ‘puts borders and border friction back on the agenda’
“The protocol was an attempt, although I would say a rather brutal attempt, to deal with these border frictions and to ensure that there was always free movement across the border on the island of Ireland and that no hard boundary was drawn, but it eventually led to an additional level of friction in the Irish Sea.
London is trying to appease pro-British trade unionists who refuse to join a new power-sharing government in Belfast – led for the first time by pro-Irish nationalists – until the protocol is reformed.
Questioned by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, the Northern Irish secretary Brandon Lewis demanded that Brussels adopt a new negotiating mandate to meet the strong objections of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
“I myself made this point to the EU before the [May 5] elections. My opinion was that it was much easier to get a deal before the election than after,” Lewis said.
“The idea that it was going to be easier after the election was crazy from the EU.”
The protocol recognized 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 neighboring EU member Ireland was mandated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, as the border has been a frequent flashpoint during three decades of violence.
But the protocol’s requirement to check goods from England, Scotland and Wales has infuriated the DUP and other trade unionists, who say it is driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest from the United Kingdom.
Lewis said the DUP, as the largest unionist party, had a democratic mandate to support its position.
“And at the moment the protocol, which the EU says aims to protect the Good Friday Agreement, is the very document that puts the Good Friday Agreement in the greatest danger,” 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 deal.
On Saturday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met in England with a congressional delegation led by Richard Neal, a senior member of Pelosi’s House Democrat party.
“We discussed our unwavering commitment to Belfast [Good Friday] Agreement, the importance of free trade and our condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” Truss tweeted.
The Foreign Office declined to comment further.
But according to the British 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 members of Congress visited Brussels on Friday.
And after what he called a “candid” meeting with Truss, the Democrat tweeted on Sunday: “I call for good faith negotiations with the EU to find lasting solutions for post-Brexit trade between the Great -Britain and Northern Ireland.
Additional AFP reporting