Northern Ireland could become Europe’s “pawn” if the Northern Ireland protocol is introduced, a senior Democratic Unionist has said.
The protocol is designed to keep the border with the Republic of Ireland free-flowing if no post-Brexit trade agreement is found between the UK and EU.
But extra paperwork and EU customs declarations would be unnecessary consequences costing the community and business dear, Paul Givan added.
He warned: “The protocol allows the EU to use us as a pawn in a much bigger plaything.”
Members of the Stormont Assembly clashed over the protocol during Tuesday’s debate on the UK Internal Market Bill, which threatens part of the accord with the EU.
The Assembly voted to reject the Internal Market Bill.
Lagan Valley Assembly member Mr Givan said interference with state aid rules and farm subsidies were other consequences of the protocol, which would keep Northern Ireland following EU rules if no wider trade deal is struck.
Mr Givan said: “The magnitude of this not something that should be glibly commented on by members opposite.”
The bill seeks to ensure trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK remains unfettered after the Brexit transition period at the end of this year.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Martina Anderson said it could have a severe impact on equality and human rights.
The dreams of future generations cannot be crushed by the imposition of a Tory nightmare vision of the internal marketMartina Anderson
“There is a clear attempt in this bill to give priority to the British internal market over the future priorities of our power-sharing administration,” she said.
“This could have a particularly severe impact on equality, human rights and environmental protections in the North.
“The dreams of future generations cannot be crushed by the imposition of a Tory nightmare vision of the internal market.”
SDLP Assembly member Matthew O’Toole proposed the Stormont debate.
He said: “Let us be clear that this Assembly rejects the Internal Market Bill, upholds the principles which have underpinned our institutions and affirms the principle that commitments made in peace agreements and international treaties should not be the plaything of demagogues.”
His motion expressed deep concerns about the UK Government’s approach to negotiations and the terms of the bill.
Mr O’Toole asked: “Does anyone think it is acceptable for our economy to be plunged into chaos at the end of the year in the middle of the biggest global health emergency for a century?”
He added: “This bill is another example of the shock to the central nervous system of the relationships and assumptions that underpinned the Agreement and remain critical to the functioning of our institutions and the broader set of relationships across these islands.”
Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said Northern Ireland was being used as a political football.