100,000 sign petition calling for unfettered British-N.Irish trade

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - More than 100,000 people signed a petition by Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in just over 24 hours calling on the British government to remove post-Brexit trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

A month after Britain left the EU's orbit, it is once again arguing with Brussels over the most contentious issue of its five year Brexit negotiations - rules for trade involving Northern Ireland.

To ensure no land border between the British-ruled region and the rest of Ireland, Britain left Northern Ireland behind in the EU single market and customs union when the rest of the United Kingdom left on Jan. 1. But that meant agreeing to checks on goods arriving from England, Scotland or Wales.

Many pro-British Northern Irish unionists fiercely oppose the new trade barriers, and some of the checks were suspended at two ports this week after reports of staff intimidation in a region beset conflict for 30 years until a 1998 peace deal.

The DUP has stepped up its campaign against the protocol in recent days, including launching the petition. Now that it has 100,000 signatures, the British parliament is required to consider a debate on it.

"We have made the case to the Prime Minister and now the people have made a very public appeal to the Government of their country to act," DUP leader Arlene Foster, the first minister of Northern Ireland's devolved government, said in a statement.

The EU and Britain agreed this week to hold further talks to resolve difficulties that have already impeded deliveries of goods, notably food. However Ireland's foreign minister warned on Thursday that there was no scope for dramatic changes.

The DUP's petition called for London to invoke an emergency clause in the protocol, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his government would do if necessary.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Graff)