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We’re not going Fifty Shades of Grey to find NI Protocol’s sweet spot, says Tory MP Hoare

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Movie: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Of Grey

Movie: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Of Grey

Guest: Simon Hoare urged firms to sing praises of protocol if it worked for them

Guest: Simon Hoare urged firms to sing praises of protocol if it worked for them

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Movie: Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Of Grey

Brexit has led to much backbiting while tying Northern Ireland politicians into some of the knottiest debates in decades. 

Now Conservative MP Simon Hoare has stumbled into references of tying-up of a different kind, with quips about sadomasochistic movie Fifty Shades Of Grey while discussing the politics of the protocol. 

Mr Hoare, who as chairman of the NI Affairs Committee has adjudicated in many fractious debates over the Irish Sea border, was a guest of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce at a virtual event yesterday. The protocol has drawn unionist and loyalist ire and was the subject of a failed court challenge this week over claims it eroded Northern Ireland's position in the Union and undermined the principle of consent in the Good Friday Agreement.

But the North Dorset MP, who is Welsh and describes himself as a Catholic Celt and “moderate unionist”, said the politics of negotiating over the protocol were nuanced. 

And he said the European Commission’s decision to grant a three-month extension to a grace period allowing the import of chilled meats from Britain showed a spirit of cooperation.  

“It’s not that the EU or UK want to die in a ditch, but it’s finding that sweet spot of cooperation where we have a bit of give and take,” he said.  

"Politics is shades of grey, although I’m not saying we’re tying ourselves to the bed like Fifty Shades Of Grey.”

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Bank of Ireland’s Ian McLaughlin, who was chairing the event, joked that he wanted to “steer this away from the Fifty Shades Of Grey direction”.

That prompted Mr Hoare to clarify that he’d “neither read the book nor watched the film”. 

He revealed that behind the political wrangles of the protocol, many of the main players are on good terms, saying: “Simon Coveney and Brandon Lewis get on very well, and Micheal Martin and Boris Johnson get on well.”

And he welcomed the court decision dismissing the challenge from TUV leader Jim Allister and vocal Brexiteers Kate Hoey and Ben Habib. 

Mr Justice Colton found the protocol did not present a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, and while it did conflict with the Act of Union, that was superseded by the fact the House of Commons had voted for the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol. 

The MP added: “I think it is very clear and there was no wriggle room. In fact, it mirrored advice I secured from the House of Commons library about five months ago.

“It is useful to have these things aired in a court and for the independence of the judiciary to be asserted and for them to hand down a judgment.

"The authority of the courts is sacrosanct.”

The event heard from businesses including Lakeland Dairies, a co-op in the Republic that collects milk from farmers over the border for processing.

It said the protocol worked for it by allowing the company to continue transporting milk across the frontier. 

Mr Hoare urged it and other firms to publicise it if the protocol worked for them.

He added: "Get hold of Andrew Lloyd Webber and turn it into a musical!”


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