Northern Ireland warned of EU ‘danger’ by Question Time guest
Amid rising tensions between Dublin, Belfast, Westminster and Brussels, Northern Ireland’s pro-Union and pro-Brexit DUP party set up an e-petition calling on the British Government to trigger the mechanism to override the Northern Ireland protocol.
Now the petition – which was set up by party leader Arlene Foster as part of a five-point plan it published in a bid to scrap the protocol – has received 130,462 signatures.
Having now broken 100,000 signatures, Parliament will be forced to consider the move for debate in the House of Commons.
The petition reads: “After just one month, Northern Ireland is suffering real economic and societal difficulties as a consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol operating and creating new barriers to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom and disrupting supply lines of goods to Northern Ireland.
“The Government should use all the powers it has to move urgently to protect UK trade and to ensure all UK goods and produce can freely flow to and from every part of the United Kingdom.”
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Ms Foster said the petition was a “demonstration” to parties supporting the protocol to accept it is flawed and must be replaced.
She said: “This is not the time for more words and drawn-out processes.
“This is the time for affirmative action to ensure that there is an unfettered flow of goods within the United Kingdom single market.”
This comes after inspections on animal-based produce arriving from Great Britain, required by the Protocol, are currently suspended amid fears for the safety of staff.
Police blamed menacing graffiti on disgruntled individuals and small groups and have made clear there is no evidence of wider parliamentary involvement in threats.
And it follows a sensational EU backlash after Brussels temporarily invoked Article 16 to block exports of the coronavirus vaccines from the Republic to Northern Ireland.
European Commissioner President Ursula von der Leyen quickly u-turned the decision following a major backlash.
She later said, following emergency talks, said: “We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.”
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Amid growing tensions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to rule out triggering Article 16.
During PMQs this week, Mr Johnson said: “We will do everything we need to do, whether legislatively or indeed by triggering Article 16 of the protocol, to ensure that there is no barrier down the Irish Sea.”
Ms Foster said the Prime Minister had committed protecting the UK internal market by all legislative means necessary, including triggering Article 16.
She wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “The Northern Ireland Protocol has not worked, cannot work and in light of our proposals to the Government, needs to be replaced.”
Ms Foster warned extending the grace periods for businesses could not solve the “wholly disproportionate” checks and said the regions “political and economic links” to the UK were at risk.
The Northern Ireland Protocol was one of the biggest issues during negotiations between the EU and UK last year.
It was designed to keep trade flowing smoothly on the island and to avoid a hard border and checkpoints.
Despite Mr Johnson being urged to invoke Article 16 and suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib warned the Prime Minister does not understand the Good Friday Agreement or the protocol.
He told Express.co.uk: “This says to me that the Prime Minister does not understand either the Good Friday Agreement or in fact the protocol which is his creation.
“Because if he did, he would never have said what he said in the House of Commons.
“The other thing which is absolutely staggering is that the one thing which is absolutely expressly set out in the EU rules breach Good Friday Agreement and must be suspended now, Brexiteer warns Boris is that the people of Northern Ireland want to be a part of the Union of the United Kingdom and that no change shall be made in their status without a vote of the people, in other words, without a referendum.
“And actually they have had this Northern Ireland Protocol foisted on them, without a referendum, without any say whatsoever.
“So it is not that the EU breached the Belfast Agreement when they invoked Article 16 momentarily a week ago – the Northern Ireland Protocol’s very existence breaches the Belfast Agreement.”
Mr Habib urged Mr Johnson to take a tough stance rather than kowtowing to Brussels.
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