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Boris Johnson claims EU enforcing NI Protocol in ‘insane and pettifogging way’

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Pic: House of Commons/PA Wire

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Pic: House of Commons/PA Wire

PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Pic: House of Commons/PA Wire

Boris Johnson told the House of Commons the EU is implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in an “insane and pettifogging way”.

Mr Johnson was responding to DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson after he encouraged him to restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

The UK Government is locked in negotiations with the EU over how to resolve the protocol.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is fronting the talks for the UK, said she believes “there is a deal to be done” to resolve the deadlock.

The protocol was introduced on January 1, 2021, as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and sees goods coming here from GB undergo checks as Northern Ireland remains part of the EU single market.

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It was designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Sir Jeffrey highlighted the struggles families are facing due to increased living and energy costs, but said the problem was “compounded” in Northern Ireland because of the protocol.

“Twenty-seven percent is the increase in the cost of bringing goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland when we can get access to those goods,” he told MPs

“It is costing business £2.5m every day - almost £1bn a year - the cost of the protocol.

“The Prime Minister talks about uniting this nation and levelling up.

“He could do that by removing the Irish Sea border and restoring Northern Ireland’s place fully within the UK internal market.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna, who was sitting behind Sir Jeffrey, showed her disapproval to his remarks by shaking her head.

Responding to Sir Jeffrey, Boris Johnson said he supported “passionately the indignation” shown by the DUP leader and admitted he “never thought” the protocol would cause so many problems when it was originally negotiated.

“Two hundred businesses have stopped supplying Northern Ireland,” he stated.

“Foods are being blocked Mr Speaker, Christmas cards are being surcharged and frankly Mr Speaker, the EU is implementing this in an insane and pettifogging way and we need to sort it out and I completely support what he is saying.”

Meanwhile, former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers urged the Government to replace the protocol in its entirety, “not just a few amendments”.

She told the House of Commons: “The Northern Protocol is clearly causing political instability. Will the Secretary of State agree that it needs replacing, not just a few amendments?”

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said Ms Villiers “makes an important point”.

“The protocol is not working and, clearly, the feedback we get from businesses across Northern Ireland is that it is not sustainable in its current form and needs to be dealt with, it needs to be fixed, and that’s what the Foreign Secretary and I are working together on to ensure we can do, and do well, for the people in Northern Ireland,” he added.

Conservative MP Peter Bone later made a similar call, saying: “The Secretary of State says the Northern Ireland Protocol isn’t working and he is right. Why don’t we scrap it?”

Elsewhere, Sinn Fein MP John Finucane branded Sir Jeffrey’s threats to walk away from the Assembly in protest against the protocol as “reckless and irresponsible”.

“Pulling ministers out of government will be an abdication of responsibility, a glaring lack of leadership and a reactionary response to a Brexit mess that the DUP championed and helped deliver in the first place,” he stated. “The DUP should end the sabre-rattling and these threats now.”


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