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25 May 2021

DUP delegation tells Lord Frost that NI Protocol must go

25 May 2021

A DUP delegation says it has given Lord Frost a clear message that the Northern Ireland Protocol must go.

MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Gavin Robinson along with Lord Dodds met with the Brexit Minister on Tuesday afternoon.

Sir Jeffrey said it was a “direct and forthright exchange of views”, adding that they highlighted the “continuing harm” to businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland “as a direct consequence of the protocol”.

“Our message was clear and unambiguous, the protocol must go and the Government should take further unilateral action to restore our province’s full and unfettered access to the United Kingdom internal market,” Sir Jeffrey said.

Earlier outgoing DUP leader First Minister Arlene Foster accused the EU of having a “tin ear” to concerns about the Protocol.

She was speaking after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the protocol needs to be implemented.

A new raft of checks on goods at the ports of Belfast and Larne under the terms of the protocol have sparked anger among unionists and loyalists who feel Northern Ireland is being separated from the rest of the UK.

While talks are continuing between the EU and the UK Government to solve some of the issues linked to the protocol, outgoing DUP leader Mrs Foster and her successor Edwin Poots have insisted it must be scrapped.

Edwin Poots (PA Wire)

Sir Jeffrey said the DUP delegation challenged government to act over the protocol.

“We made it clear that the Government must act carefully but decisively to restore the delicate balance of community relations in the coming days,” he said.

“The Government has a duty to step up to the mark and urgently reinstate our historic East-West trading relationships.

“It must bring forward meaningful and sustainable proposals to replace the protocol, alleviate disruption facing businesses and in so doing restore in full the rights and benefits enjoyed by Northern Ireland citizens within the United Kingdom.”

Following a visit to a school in Craigavon on Tuesday, Mrs Foster told the PA news agency the UK Government must act to ensure free movement of trade with Northern Ireland.

Responding to Mrs von der Leyen’s remarks, she said: “I think it is hugely disappointing, in spite of everything that has happened, the fact that we are talking about cancer drugs being prevented from coming into Northern Ireland.

“The fact that there are more checks from Great Britain into Northern Ireland than there are in Rotterdam; that still the European Union and the European Commission have had a tin ear to the concerns and the absolutely genuine concerns of the people in Northern Ireland.

“I would urge our own Government to act in relation to this issue because the United Kingdom as a sovereign entity has a right to have trade moving freely between the different parts and therefore that has to take place.”

Recent tensions in Northern Ireland are a result of Brexit itself rather than the protocol introduced after the UK left the EU, Ms von der Leyen said.

Ursula von der Leyen (PA Wire)

She was speaking following the first day of the EU Council, the first such meeting since the introduction of the EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement at the beginning of May.

Ms von der Leyen said: “The beginnings are not easy, tensions are being felt around the access, for example, of EU fishing boats, or tensions are without any doubt there around the implementation of the protocol of Northern Ireland.

“And I think it is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the European Union’s single market.

“If we see problems today we should not forget that they do not come from the protocol but they result from Brexit.

“That is the reason why the problems are there.

“Now, it’s our common duty with the United Kingdom to do whatever we can to reduce tensions in Northern Ireland and that is why we are exploring practical solutions to help to minimise the disruptions to the everyday life in Northern Ireland.”

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