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Northern Ireland Protocol Bill ‘built on sand’ claims Alliance’s Farry after legislation clears first Commons test

The Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry has claimed Boris Johnson’s plan to rip up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol is “flawed” and “built on sand”.

The MP was speaking after the government’s Bill cleared its first Commons hurdle on Monday evening and suggested the attempt to persuade the DUP to return to Stormont would fail.

The North Down politician said he was “disappointed but not surprised” the legislation was voted through but told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster the Bill is “ultimately going to be a dead end”.

“This is not going to provide a sustainable long-term solution to the tensions that are posed to Northern Ireland by Brexit,” he said.

“If this is simply a negotiating tactic it is a very poor one. Most people would recognise the only way you are only going to find those solutions with the EU is through building trust and partnership.

“Whenever you are threatening to take unilateral action never mind doing it, you are only going to make that situation worse.”

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The post-Brexit trading arrangements have been opposed by all unionists at Stormont, with the DUP refusing to nominate a Speaker or deputy First Minister in order to allow the Assembly to function.

The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would consider what steps the party takes as the Bill progresses.

However, he warned the Lords that blocking the legislation would be akin to “wrecking the Good Friday Agreement”.

Mr Farry claimed there were a lot of “ifs, buts and maybes” but suggested there was not a “clear answer” from the DUP “if and when they would return”.

“If they [the DUP] are to return on what is essentially based on a false premise all we are doing is actually putting in place a different set of problems,” Mr Farry added.

“We are leaving the business community in a situation of huge instability and uncertainty in terms of their trading relationship with the EU.

“If this is the strategy of getting the DUP back into the Executive it is a flawed one, because it is built on sand. There are so many things that could come unstuck in terms of the process.”

MPs voted 295 to 221 - majority 74 - to give the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill a second reading, which clears the way for it to undergo detailed scrutiny in the coming weeks.

The Prime Minister claimed the proposed legislation, which gives ministers powers to override parts of the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, could be carried out “fairly rapidly”, with the proposals in law by the end of the year.

The House of Lords is also expected to contest parts of the Bill, setting up a lengthy showdown between the two Houses.

Mr Johnson’s Government has said the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.

Asked if the measures could be in place this year, Mr Johnson said: “Yes, I think we could do it very fast, Parliament willing.”

He said it would be “even better” if we could “get some of that flexibility we need in our conversations with Maros Sefcovic”, the European Commission vice-president.

The Prime Minister added: “We remain optimistic.”


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