Conditions are in place to suspend Irish protocol, says Unionist leader –

The leader of Northern Ireland’s largest Unionist party hinted on Monday (November 8th) that the UK should suspend the Northern Ireland protocol because it undermines the Good Friday peace deal.

“The conditions are ripe to trigger Article 16,” said Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

“The protocol upsets the very delicate constitutional balance which is at the heart of the agreement, it undermines our relations with the rest of the UK in a way unacceptable to trade unionists,” he added.

“Let us not lose sight of the fact that there is not a single elected trade unionist who supports this protocol.

On Monday, November 8, the Progressive Unionist Party, the political wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a paramilitary group, said it could no longer support the 1998 peace deal because the protocol, which maintains Ireland of the North in the EU’s single market for goods and imposes customs controls on products traveling from Britain to Northern Ireland, violates the principle of consent of its communities.

The DUP was the only major Unionist party not to support the Good Friday Agreement when it was first signed.

The remarks come amid growing speculation that UK Brexit Minister David Frost is set to invoke Article 16 of the Brexit deal and suspend the protocol, which could have repercussions on the continuation of the trade and cooperation agreement between the UK and the EU. .

Talks between British and European officials have been going on for several weeks to resolve disputes over the implementation of the protocol. Yet both sides play down the prospects of a compromise.

EU officials have expressed concern that Boris Johnson’s government could fight with the Commission over the protocol to distract from a corruption scandal involving the interests of MPs. Last week, the Johnson government attempted to overhaul the UK Parliament’s standards regulator after discovering Tory MP Owen Paterson had brought Parliament into disrepute by lobbying the government on behalf of the companies that paid him 100,000 £.

However, while the protocol is unpopular with most of the Unionist community, opinion polls suggest it is supported by a slim majority of Northern Irish people.

“Protocol is a child of necessity… a unique set of circumstances to protect the Good Friday agreement but also to protect free movement,” Stewart Dickson, an Alliance lawmaker, told EURACTIV.

Speaking to the Northern Ireland assembly on Monday, Declan Kearney, a deputy minister in Republican Sinn Fein’s decentralized government, told fellow lawmakers that “most people support the protocol and think we need to do it. so that the protocol works “.

He added that this gave Northern Ireland businesses unrestricted access to EU and UK markets.

Meanwhile, Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP), called on UK ministers and the DUP to “think very carefully” about the language used regarding the protocol, adding that they “were increasingly creating more instability on the streets of Northern Ireland ”.

“We should eliminate the threat to these institutions, we should eliminate the pretext that there is a big battle around the protocol when it is absolutely clear to anyone that the European Union has offered the people of Ireland North all he asked for, “he said. noted.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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