52 of 90 MLAs sign letter to Johnson rejecting legislation to amend NI Protocol

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A majority of MLAs in the Stormont Assembly have signed a joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating their opposition to proposed legislation to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The letter has been signed by 52 of the 90 MLAs, representing Sinn Fein, the SDLP and the Alliance Party.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill is among the signatories, but DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson highlighted that all unionist MLAs opposed the protocol.

In a tweet, Ms O’Neill described the “unilateral actions of Boris Johnson” as “utterly reckless”.

“It is clearly a breach of International Law. The impact on our businesses & economy could be colossal. The pro-protocol parties have jointly written to Boris Johnson today to firmly reject his legislation and approach,” she tweeted.

The letter to Mr Johnson from the 52 MLAs said they “reject in the strongest possible terms your Government’s reckless new protocol legislation, which flies in the face of the expressed wishes of not just most businesses, but most people in Northern Ireland”.

It continued: “Whilst not ideal, the protocol currently represents the only available protections for Northern Ireland from the worst impacts of that hard Brexit.”

The MLAs said they share the desire to see post-Brexit arrangements work as smoothly as possible, but added that the best way to achieve this is through engagement with the European Union.

“It is clear that solutions are available and deliverable – as have already been delivered in the area of medicines – but this must be on the basis of trust and the rule of law rather than law breaking and unilateral abrogation of treaty obligations,” they said.

The MLAs said they “strongly reject” Mr Johnson’s claim to be protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (Liam McBurney/PA)

“To complain the protocol lacks cross-community consent, while ignoring the fact that Brexit itself – let alone hard Brexit – lacks even basic majority consent here, is a grotesque act of political distortion,” they wrote.

“Your claims to be acting to protect our institutions is as much a fabrication as the Brexit campaign claims you made in 2016.

“We will resolutely oppose this reckless Bill and continue to promote post-Brexit solutions on the basis of trust and honesty.”

Sir Jeffrey said: “I want to be clear that those parties do not represent unionism.

“They represent one side of this debate and this institution in the Assembly can only be restored on the basis of a cross-community consensus, majority rule will not cut it.

“That’s what unionists were told over all the years. You cannot in a divided society operate on the basis of majority rule.

“So, to the Alliance, the SDLP and Sinn Fein who have written this letter, they need to recognise that these institutions can only function with the consent and support of unionists.

“Not a single (unionist) assembly member elected here at Stormont supports the protocol and that issue needs to be dealt with and, in the absence of an agreement with the EU, then the UK Government is right to act and we look forward to giving full consideration to this legislation.”

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