Campaigners at border call for NI protocol to be protected

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Campaigners gathered at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic on Saturday to warn the UK Government against triggering Article 16.

A crowd gathered at Carrickcarnon to demand that the post-Brexit arrangements introduced for Northern Ireland are retained and protected, amid ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU.

Damian McGinty, from Border Communities Against Brexit, told the crowd that the majority of people in Northern Ireland opposed the UK’s exit from the EU.

“Don’t forget, 56% voted to remain and we voted to remain in the EU and by any calculation that is a majority. And a majority also support the protocol, the DUP do not speak for us.”

Protesters called on the Government not to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr McGinty took aim at Brexit chief negotiator Lord Frost, and called his approach to Brexit “disgraceful”.

“The European Union have a critical role to play here,” he said.

He said that if the UK does trigger Article 16, which would suspend elements of the post-Brexit arrangements in place in Northern Ireland, “the EU must stand in solidarity with Ireland and stand in solidarity with the people who live in this region”.

On Friday, Lord Frost said there was the potential to “generate momentum” in talks with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol

It followed a meeting in Brussels with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic on Friday.

A mock customs post was set up (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lord Frost said the UK wants to “secure a solution based on consensus”, after his Cabinet colleague Michael Gove earlier appeared to retreat from the threat to trigger Article 16.

On Saturday, the protest heard that the Northern Ireland Protocol must be retained and that checkpoints should never return to the border.

“We never want to go back to it again and we’re determined we’re not going back to it,” campaigner Declan Fearon told the crowd.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said this week that he believed there is “a genuine desire” on all sides to resolve the protocol dispute without the use of Article 16.

Damian McGinty from Border Communities Against Brexit speaks at the demonstration (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speculation has continued for months that the UK Government is preparing to trigger Article 16.

The Northern Ireland Protocol has been fiercely opposed by unionists and loyalists, who object to the creation of a trade barrier with Great Britain.

Human rights professor Colin Harvey attended the demonstration on Saturday.

He told the crowd: “What we need to say today is, to this British Government, to Boris and the Brexiteers that are once again playing strategic games with the lives of people on this island, is to implement what you agreed in good faith.”

“We know you’re not used to doing that. But we insist that you do it.”

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