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What they said: Politicians react to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Belfast Telegraph protocol article

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Prime Minster Boris Johnson arrives at Hillsborough Castle ahead of meeting local political parties to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Prime Minster Boris Johnson arrives at Hillsborough Castle ahead of meeting local political parties to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Brian Spencer's cartoon about Boris Johnson's visit

Brian Spencer's cartoon about Boris Johnson's visit

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

PA

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

PA

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Prime Minster Boris Johnson arrives at Hillsborough Castle ahead of meeting local political parties to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol. Credit: Jonathan Porter/PressEye

In a lengthy article in the Belfast Telegraph, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his stall on the current issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol. He stressed that it needs to be fixed – not ditched entirely. Here's how politicians reacted:

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson - DUP

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said words alone "don't cut it" and he will wait and see what actions the Government takes before making his next move.

"We're in a negotiating process and people start from different points, but in the end it is the outcome that matters. That's what I'm focused on getting, and as soon as we get a solution that removes that Irish Sea border," he told the BBC.

"I need action and that's how I will judge what the Prime Minister does, not necessarily what he says. I will judge what the Government does and I will look at the credibility of what that is and the impact it has in terms of removing that Irish Sea border.

"I haven't seen the Government's proposals so I'm not in a position to say I would do A or B, but you will note that in the past we have been reasonable, we have taken proportionate action, we have sought to give time for negotiations, to bring forward outcomes. That hasn't happened and I think the time has come now for action."

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Michelle O'Neill - Sinn Fein

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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Fein vice-president and First Minister-in-waiting Michelle O'Neill said they do not need a "pep talk" from the Prime Minister.

"We have no desire for a pep talk from Boris Johnson, we want politics to work," she said.

"I want to be in the Executive. I want to lead for the people, not least to respond to the cost-of-living crisis, but what we have today are repeated approaches from Boris Johnson to say they are going to take unilateral action to disapply parts of the protocol, and that is just reckless and madness.

"I think all efforts and all attention needs to be turned to negotiated solutions, agreed solutions, find ways to smooth the implementation of the protocol because it is here to stay, and I think that's an objective that both I and the Taoiseach share.

"The DUP are holding the rest of society to ransom because of their actions, because they delivered us the hardest possible Brexit, so I think Boris Johnson, perhaps, is speaking out of two sides of his mouth. On one hand he is saying he wants politics to work, he wants the Executive to be formed, at the same time he is feeding the instability and economic uncertainty with his threats to go around the protocol."

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Brian Spencer's cartoon about Boris Johnson's visit

Brian Spencer's cartoon about Boris Johnson's visit

Brian Spencer's cartoon about Boris Johnson's visit

Naomi Long - Alliance Party

Alliance leader and caretaker Justice Minister Naomi Long said she feels problems around the protocol are being "exaggerated both by the DUP and by the UK government". She said business community fears around instability and uncertainty will be created "unless the EU agree mutually-agreed ways forward on the protocol".

"Whatever about the protocol, things are not resolved in Northern Ireland by us sitting outside of government," she added.

She told the BBC she will be pressing Boris Johnson to cut the salary of those who are preventing the Assembly from fully functioning when she meets him today.

"That's the most important thing at this juncture because I think people over the weekend have been genuinely angry at the thought that people who are blocking the restoration of the institutions, stopping the Assembly from sitting - which was never part of the DUP's agenda during the election - are still able to turn up and still able to get paid. So, I will be telling him that very clearly," she told the BBC.

Matthew O'Toole - SDLP

The SDLP's South Belfast MLA Matthew O'Toole said we shouldn't be treating Mr Johnson's article as "some sort of canonical text".

"This is a man who famously wrote two articles, one in support of Brexit, the other opposing it, before the referendum was called in 2016," he told the BBC.

"So, he writes a lot of words, many of them are total nonsense. Many of them, in fact - most of them - are simply to serve his own ends. What we will be telling him today is very clear, that what he and his government have done over the past year or two is to create instability in Northern Ireland, rather than lead people to a set of solutions post-Brexit that work.

"If he is willing to enter into proper, serious discussions with the EU about how to make the protocol work and how to make all the other issues to do with Brexit work. The way he is saying [that he will enter into serious dialogue with the EU], the way it is framed, is as a bit of a threat... and it's very clearly designed towards a precursor to unilateral action which would be, as others have said, completely irresponsible."

Steve Aiken - UUP

Former UUP leader Steve Aiken said his party wants to see no borders north, south, east or west.

"The fact that Northern Ireland is 0.02% of the combined GDP of the United Kingdom and the European Union, there must be mechanisms to sort this out," he told the BBC.

"Everybody has talked about the 'landing zone', and we know where the landing zone is. It's been mentioned in Brussels, it's been mentioned in Washington, it has been mentioned in Dublin, it's been mentioned in London. The landing zone is quite simple: no checks on internal UK goods. There is no need for it and if there is to be a risked-based approach to goods entering the European Union, that's the direction of travel we should be going in."

Micheal Martin - Irish Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader

Taoiseach Micheal Martin met with Michelle O'Neill on Monday. Following the meeting, an Irish government spokesperson said: "They both agreed on the importance of having the NI Assembly and Executive up and running as soon as possible.

"This is what the people of Northern Ireland voted for less than two weeks ago. That the democratically-elected Assembly is being impeded from sitting and doing its business is in nobody's interests.

"They expressed serious concern about possible unilateral moves on the protocol by the British government, which would have a destabilising impact on Northern Ireland.

"They recognised that there are genuine issues regarding aspects of the implementation of the protocol, but these can be taken forward in the context of EU-UK discussions. Only agreed outcomes will provide the stability and certainty that Northern Ireland needs."

Theresa Villiers – Former NI Secretary

Former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said it was written into the protocol that it could be revisited if it was causing problems.

"What is now being proposed is actually in line with some core elements of the protocol.
The protocol itself contemplates that it might be replaced, the protocol itself says that if it has negative consequences in terms of political stability and trade diversion, then the parties need to come back and look at this again. Both of these are present here,” she told the BBC.

"And what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary seem to me to be doing is to present a reasonable offer to the European Union on a system which suspends part of the protocol, yes, but still delivers compliance arrangements to protect the single market while assuaging unionist concerns about how the protocol has been operating up to now."


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