Tory MP rubbishes DUP protests over Irish Protocol – ‘We’d bite your hands off for access

Northern Ireland: Brandon Lewis slams 'rhetoric' on unity

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Simon Hoare, Conservative MP for North Dorset and Chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, appeared on Tuesday’s episode of BBC Newsnight to discuss the Brexit trade deal and Protocol. The DUP, after recently elected leader Edwin Poots resigned after two weeks, have appointed Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as leader. Sir Jeffery was the only candidate standing for DUP leadership.

Mr Hoare said the Protocol did not threaten Northern Ireland’s status in the UK, and downplayed the DUP’s anger over customs rules in the Irish Sea.

He said: “When everybody from the Prime Minister down, including Lord Frost before our committee last week, was very clear there is no constitutional impact that flows from the protocol.

“Now I could be incredibly naive, I could be incredibly wrong on this, but I, in all honesty, don’t believe that people define their sense of belonging, their sense of loyalty, their sense of nationhood by the trading arrangements that moves a packet of breakfast cereal from one place to another.

“Nationhood and citizenship and all the things that go with it are much bigger than that.

“It is unfortunate that some people have whipped this up into some sort of constitutional outrage when all it is a trading arrangement.”

Host Emily Maitlis then asked Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim and party chief whip in Westminster, to respond.

Attacking Mr Hoare’s dismissal of the DUP’s concerns over the Protocol, he attacked the Tory MP’s constituency and said: “I doubt very much that people in North Dorset would accept that they were equally a part of the United Kingdom as others if a different set of laws applied to North Dorset that applied to other parts of the United Kingdom.

“If new laws made for North Dorset weren’t made by politicians in North Dorset, (if) they were made by politicians in Brussels…”

Mr Hoare retorted: “Sammy all I would say to that is if the businesses and farmers of my constituency, which may of them wanted, were given the opportunity to have access to the internal market of the United Kingdom and the single market of the EU, they would bite your hand off, they would bite of my hand.

“They would bite the hand of anyone who is offering it. It is now time, I think, to focus on the positives, iron out the problems, focus on rebuilding the economy and let’s get, all of us working together, the prosperity agenda as envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement felt by all sections of the Northern Ireland community.”

Earlier on Newsnight, Mr Wilson said the newly elected DUP leader Sir Jeffery’s main objective is to undo the damage cause by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Upon being appointed on Tuesday, the DUP leader vowed to make Westminster and Brussels “step up and recognise the flaws of the protocol and how it was foisted upon Northern Ireland”.

He added, in an attack on Boris Johnson: “I will be speaking with the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity to emphasise that it is not realistic to expect stability when every unionist representative in the devolved institutions opposes the Northern Ireland protocol.

“The Government and those who claim to be protectors of peace and stability, must step up and deal with the protocol in a manner which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.”

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The UK and the EU agreed on the Protocol while negotiating the Brexit trade deal, with the agreement seeing no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

However Northern Ireland must follow the EU’s customs union and single market rules, meaning goods from Great Britain are subject to checks and standards.

At the end of June, a ‘grace period’ where no customs rules apply to chilled meats expires, prompting fury from the DUP and Westminster.

Nicholas Watt, BBC Political Editor, said on Newsnight the UK is cautiously optimistic the EU will the extend grace period.

Mr Johnson has however threatened to ignore the ban and unilaterally suspend the treaty if it is not lifted, which the EU warned could cause a trade war.

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