THE PLAN by the Conservative government to radically alter the Brexit Protocol has been branded “dangerous” and “reckless” locally.
On Monday the government published the 20-page Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which now has to be voted through the two houses for ratification. The bill makes changes to the already agreed arrangement between the UK and the EU as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Designed to keep the border here free and open post-Brexit, by keeping the North following EU trade and customs rules, the Protocol had resulted in some checks on goods coming across the Irish Sea, causing upset among many unionists and leading to the DUP walking away from power-sharing until the matter is resolved.
The government said the new bill would ease the impact of the Protocol on businesses by streamlining goods coming into the North from Britain, through a red and green lane system. The bill also removes the requirement for the North to follow EU rules on VAT, and lessens the power of the European Court of Justice here.
The Westminster government has been accused of breaking international law by taking unilateral action to change the Protocol, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin branding the bill “a fundamental breach of trust.”
The DUP has yet to confirm if the bill goes far enough to see them returning to the Executive, with leader Jeffrey Donaldson indicated the party will wait to see if it passes through parliament.
Locally, MLA Jemma Dolan, pictured left, has said the bill is “dangerous” and “reckless” and jeopardises both the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and political stability in the North.
“The actions of Boris Johnson and his government in Westminster are dangerous,” she said.
“They are a clear breach of international law and they threaten to undermine the Good Friday Agreement.”
Ms Dolan noted the bill had “come on the heels the DUP’s boycott of the Assembly, the Executive and north south institutions”, but pointed out the majority of MLAs and “the overwhelming majority of businesses” supported the Protocol.
“The north’s economy is outperforming others, business is growing and new jobs are being created. There is no sense in what the British are doing,” she said.
“Instead of wreaking the protocol, the British government should be working to help maximise it’s opportunities.
“The Protocol gives the North access to both the British market and the EU single market of more than 500 million consumers.
“Any small problems with the implementation of the Protocol can be found in negotiations between the EU and British government.
“They will not be found through this type of unilateral and reckless action.”
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