Northern Ireland: Unionists march against Brexit arrangements
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Boris Johnson’s Government negotiated the Protocol with EU officials during the Brexit trade deal negotiations in 2019 and 2020. It came into force at the start of this year, with customs checks between Britain and Northern Ireland causing havoc.
Now, Nigel Dodds, former DUP deputy leader, has said the Prime Minister and Government were warned n October 2019 the Protocol would be a disaster.
Appearing on BBC Newsnight, host Emily Maitlis mentioned both Mr Johnson and Lord David Frost believed the Protocol posed “unexpected” issues, which Mr Dodds disputed.
After skewering Theresa May’s proposal for Northern Ireland as a “tacked on, some temporary, rickety regime”, he said: “You’re right to point out that when the Protocol was brought forward at the end of the negotiations in October 2019 by David Frost and Boris Johnson, we in the DUP warned in the House of Commons, in private meetings…
“There were Cabinet papers which illustrated in full detail the full implications and consequences of this Protocol.
“So yes there may be some areas where it has gone further than it should, but the basic fundamental problems of the protocol were well known when the British government signed up to it, unfortunately.”
Ms Maitlis then asked the former DUP deputy why he thinks the warnings were “ignored”.
He said: “The reason why it was done, which they have said since, was that they worried Brexit wouldn’t get done.
“That this was something that needed to happen, but when the United Kingdom had full sovereign then the matter would be addressed.
“There is no doubt that the full consequences of this have taken some people by surprise, in Whitehall they didn’t look at the detail very, very closely.
“And the fundamental point is this: If checks and infrastructure in the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic could destabilise the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements and peace, likewise checks and infrastructure between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will do exactly the same.”
The Protocol means Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s customs territory but will also have to stick to some EU rules to allow goods to move freely into the Republic.
It comes as the EU and UK failed to agree on new regulatory standards on some products, meaning a ban will come into force after a “grace period” allowed under the agreement.
In March, the UK unilaterally extended the grace period for supermarket goods and parcels for another six months which led the EU to launch legal action.
The ‘grace period’ on chilled meats produced in Great Britain ends on June 30, with the UK set to extend that period as well.
Maros Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission, warned the UK retaliation by the EU over the extension would be so extreme it would ensure Britain “abides by its international law obligations”.
Lord Frost and Mr Šefčovič held talks yesterday in a bid to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol, but “no breakthroughs” were reached.
The Brexit minister, formerly the UK’s negotiator during trade talks, said in a statement: “The UK will continue to work actively to find solutions.
“If solutions cannot be found, the Government will of course continue to consider all options available for safeguarding peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Šefčovič also said after the meeting: “These gaps need to be filled by a mutually agreed compliant path with concrete deadlines and milestones for the UK to fulfil its existing obligations.
“If the UK were to take further unilateral action in the coming weeks the EU will not be shy in acting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure the UK abides by its international obligations.”
Mr Johnson himself has also claimed a solution to issues with the Protocol is “easily doable”.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the Prime Minister said: “I think that what we want is something that enables us to protect trade flows, east/west, as well as north/south, and that’s easily doable.
“I’m very very optimistic about this, I think that’s easily doable…
“What we want to do is make sure that we can have a solution that guarantees the peace process and protects the peace process, but also guarantees the economic and territorial integrity of the whole United Kingdom. That’s what it’s all about.”
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