Moves by the UK Government to make changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol will make it harder to address ongoing issues with its implementation, Alliance MP Stephen Farry has said.
The North Down MP was speaking after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed the Government would introduce legislation in the coming weeks to set aside aspects of the Protocol, alongside ‘parallel’ talks with the EU.
“This proposed action is unwanted and unwarranted. Indeed, it may prove to be counterproductive and destructive. Much of the rationale cited by the Government is disingenuous,” said Dr Farry.
“The Protocol is the product of Brexit. It reflects the choice made for a hard Brexit, and the resultant need to manage the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland through special arrangements. The Protocol brings some relative opportunities for Northern Ireland but also poses some challenges. Once the UK opted to leave the Customs Union and Single Market, there was inevitably going to be an interface with the EU and therefore some degree of friction.
“The nature and level of checks can be reduced via various mitigations and flexibilities, either working through the Protocol or via building upon the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, through for example a veterinary agreement. All of this involves building trust, especially as solutions involve the EU subcontracting some of its functions to UK authorities.
“Everyone is frustrated at the slow pace of progress over the past 12 months. The EU should display greater flexibility. However the primary fault lies with the belligerent and begrudging approach taken by the UK Government.
“A clear majority of the electorate, MLAs and the business community favour a pragmatic approach. This confrontational approach is clearly at odds with opinion in Northern Ireland which begs the question as to why it is happening?
“The Government’s approach will further undermine trust, making it even more difficult to reach breakthroughs. It would also break and undermine international law, while risking a trade war with the EU at a time when the UK economy is weak and vulnerable.
“Any action or even threat of action that takes Northern Ireland out of the Single Market, including disapplying the jurisdiction of the ECJ will undermine our region as an investment location. It would also lead to even greater political instability. The way forward lies in mutual agreement between the UK and EU around legal and sustainable solutions.”