McDonald: DUP attempts to undermine Northern Ireland Protocol ‘reckless’

Michelle Devane, Michael McHugh and David Young, PA
·3-min read

The Sinn Fein president has described the DUP’s attempts to undermine the Northern Ireland Protocol as “reckless”.

Mary Lou McDonald said the DUP was not driven by the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland and that it was critical the protocol was not “unpicked and undermined” after five weeks in operation.

Her comments come in response to the DUP announcing it will launch a co-ordinated bid to undermine the Northern Ireland Protocol in Belfast and London.

That includes an online petition calling for the UK Government to remove barriers to unfettered trade and opposing protocol-related legislation in the Stormont Assembly.

Ms McDonald said: “The majority of people and parties in the north opposed Brexit and worked hard over five years to secure the Irish Protocol. It protects the Good Friday Agreement and it is critical to future economic progress.

“The Irish Protocol allows businesses in the north to export to Britain and the EU seamlessly, something that is of huge benefit to the north. It is critical that it is not unpicked and undermined after five weeks in operation.

“The position adopted by the DUP is reckless and is not driven by the best interests of the people of the north. I urge them to pull back. Now is the time for calm leadership and solutions to deal with the disruption which has arisen as a result of Brexit.”

She also said that threats against port workers in Belfast and Larne are totally unacceptable and must be lifted immediately so people can return to work.

The DUP on Tuesday promised to work with other unionists to send a united message to London, Brussels and Dublin that Northern Ireland must be freed from the post-Brexit arrangement and its problems.

It also said it will:

– Not participate in any north/south political engagement on issues related to the protocol.

– Strive for a united unionist message demanding scrapping of the arrangements.

– Attempt to build support for the anti-protocol position at Westminster.

– Launch a parliamentary e-petition with the ambition of securing enough signatures to force a debate on the issue.

It said: “The Government needs to be bold and be prepared to act to bring about outcomes that underpin Northern Ireland’s full place in the most important internal market for us – that of the UK.

“The Prime Minister must now directly address the people of Northern Ireland on the growing crisis arising from the protocol.”

Democratic Unionists vowed to actively oppose at every opportunity any negative measures, laws or bills that continue to flow from the protocol and which undermine Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

Some party members have faced threats after the protocol came into operation at the start of this year aimed at keeping the Irish land border open by ensuring Northern Ireland followed the EU’s trade rules.

Irish Sea commerce from Great Britain has seen disruption and extra paperwork as a result.

On Friday the EU backtracked over invoking Article 16 of its agreement with the UK to block coronavirus supplies from crossing the border from the Republic into Northern Ireland.

The DUP statement said that revealed that the arguments advanced by the EU around protecting the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement institutions were not borne out of principle but political opportunism.

It added: “The revealing actions on Friday by the EU have caused very significant anger and harm within Northern Ireland and has compounded the notion that the EU is playing fast and loose with Northern Ireland, attempting on the one hand to require the UK Government to enforce its obligations whilst being prepared to waive elements of the protocol when it suits the needs of the EU.

“This is unsustainable.

“It is evident that the EU’s priority is not protecting the Belfast Agreement but is entirely about protecting its own single market.”

It said the protocol has upset the balance of relationships flowing from the 1998 Belfast peace agreement that many others claimed were unalterable.