Brexit: Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald says disruption shouldn't come as a 'surprise'

·3-min read

Trade barriers between Great Britain and the island of Ireland are a consequence of the UK's EU exit and Brexiteers need to accept that, the president of Sinn Fein has told Sky News.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mary Lou McDonald said it should not come as "any surprise to any sensible person that we are now facing some level of disruption and difficulty" in the wake of Brexit taking effect.

The leader of the opposition in Ireland was speaking after a survey of international hauliers found the volume of exports travelling from British ports to the EU fell 68% last month compared with the same period last year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month acknowledged "teething problems" with trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the wake of the transition period ending.

There have been empty shelves in some supermarkets in Northern Ireland as retailers and businesses get to grips with the new rules on importing food products from Great Britain, as well as reports of lorries being delayed and refused entry at ports.

"Brexiteers who shouted most loudly for Brexit and told us that Brexit is Brexit, they should not be surprised at the fact that Brexit is disruptive," Mrs McDonald said.

"Brexit is bad news for Ireland and of course it creates these kinds of trading difficulties."

The issues have prompted the Democratic Unionist Party to call for the scrapping of the Northern Ireland protocol, the part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement that governs the movement of goods.

In an effort to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland, the protocol allows Northern Ireland to remain under some EU rules.

But this means there has to be customs declarations on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, including checks on some products.

Mrs McDonald said the focus should be on resolving the initial problems with the arrangements, not getting rid of them altogether.

"None of us wanted trading barriers between our island and the island to Britain, or across the continent, but Brexit has happened and in some respects those that advocated it so strongly now need to very much accept the fact that these are the consequences of their decisions," she said.

"For us on the island of Ireland, there is the immediate need to have the protocol work to protect Irish jobs and livelihoods, to secure the infrastructure of our peace process."

Mrs McDonald added: "There are some teething problems and difficulties with the application of that protocol.

"So, we know what needs to happen is a sensible informed conversation between the British government and the European Commission and institutions and the flexibilities and machinations envisaged in the protocol need to be used to iron out and mitigate those initial problems."

This past week, the PM promised to "do everything we need to do" - including potentially triggering Article 16 of the protocol - in order to "ensure there is no barrier down the Irish Sea".

It comes just days after the EU itself threatened - and then abandoned - an attempt to invoke Article 16 as part of the bloc's row with drugmakers over COVID-19 vaccines and its efforts to introduce export controls on jabs.

But Sinn Fein's president warned it would be "very, very reckless" for the UK to trigger Article 16.

She acknowledged the threat from Brussels to invoke it was "absolutely ill-judged", adding: "I think any talk from any quarter about some kind of retaliatory tit-for-tat approach by the British government I think is just very, very reckless."