A DUP MLA has written to a powerful US committee after its chairman Richard Neal said there is “manufactured” objection to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Diane Dodds – who confirmed the correspondence has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee – called Mr Neal a “friend of Sinn Fein” and branded his comments “outrageous”.
The senior US Democrat is leading a bipartisan US delegation made up of four Democrats and four Republicans that has met with political leaders in Belgium, the UK and Ireland in recent days.
As part of the diplomatic trip, the delegation is visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland this week amid tensions caused by the post-Brexit trading arrangements, and the UK Government's threat to introduce legislation that would unilaterally override parts of the protocol.
Speaking to the media, Mr Neal suggested the “protocol dispute seems to me to be a manufactured issue”.
Responding, Ms Dodds suggested the US delegation should “speak up for consensus politics and seek a path which respects Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and can command support of unionists.”
“Richie Neal has always been a friend of Sinn Fein and quick to pay tribute to the IRA so his disrespect for unionists isn’t much of a shock but to suggest the more than 40% of MLAs elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly less than 20 days ago were ‘manufacturing’ their opposition to the NI Protocol is outrageous.
“The Protocol has not enjoyed the support of a single unionist MP or MLA since it was forced upon us by Westminster and Brussels.
“The Protocol is driving up costs on our supermarket shelves particularly in frozen food. It has placed our medicine supply in jeopardy and made Northern Ireland a colony where we are subject to rules but are powerless to change them.
“From the minute Richie Neal’s feet touched these shores, he has been more of a hindrance than a help to progress.”
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Neal called on the government in London to “help us all find a solution” to the row over the post-Brexit trading arrangements.
"So, what we've heard so far, clearly from (the) European Union, is they want to find a solution,” he said.
"What we've heard from the Minister (Simon Coveney), the Taoiseach and the President, they want to find a solution.
"We, the congressional delegation, want to find a solution.”