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PM indicates situation surrounding NI protocol now ‘serious’ as politicians hit out at ‘stupid move’ to scrap agreement

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Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal/Reuters

Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal/Reuters

REUTERS

British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire)

British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss (Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire)

PA

/

Boris Johnson. Photo: Daniel Leal/Reuters

The situation surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol is “now very serious”, the Prime Minister has indicated.

Boris Johnson made the comments during a call with Taoiseach Micheal Martin about the post-Brexit arrangements on Tuesday morning.

It comes as a reported move from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to discard large portions of the Northern Ireland Protocol after giving up on Brexit negotiations with the EU has been branded “stupid” by some Northern Ireland politicians.

Officials working for Liz Truss are reported by the Times to have drawn up draft legislation to unilaterally remove the need for checks on all goods being sent from Britain to Northern Ireland.

The law would also ensure businesses in Northern Ireland are able to disregard EU rules and regulations and remove the power of the European Court of Justice to rule on issues relating to the region, the paper said.

Ms Truss is understood to have concluded talks with the EU and has been told the proposed bill could lead to a trade war with the bloc.

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A Downing Street account of the call between Mr Johnson and Mr Martin reported the pair had agreed on the vital importance of restoring the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

Stephen Farry MP for North Down responded to the claims parts of the protocol would be discarded on Twitter, branding it a “stupid move”.

The Alliance MP added: “This will only make the task of addressing the issues with the Protocol more difficult. We need mutual agreed, legal and sustainable outcomes. Trust is the key ingredient for breakthroughs.”

Chris Hazzard MP for South Down also tweeted that the actions would be “destructive” and would “ultimately achieve nothing.”

He tweeted: “A sizeable majority of MLAs are supportive of the Protocol - in fact last week’s election seen an increase in the number of MLAs who support the Protocol Yet again the British government’s actions will be destructive and will ultimately achieve nothing but instability & uncertainty.”

Simon Hoare MP for North Dorset and chairman for the Northern Ireland Select Committee echoed these remarks.

Mr Hoare tweeted: “Not this sabre rattling again! Worth noting: a) we did the “negotiations” this is about amends; b) inflation up, recession on horizon & we think now a good time for a trade war with our nearest neighbours?; c) no honourable country should act unilaterally within an agreement.”

Matthew O’Toole MLA said on Twitter that, if Ms Truss was to follow through with this, “it would be a contemptuous rejection of what people here voted for in the Assembly election.”

He tweeted: “Those London journalists writing dramatically about the end of the union might want to ask about the effects of stunts like this. It would be a contemptuous rejection of what people here voted for in the Assembly election. How does that end?”

Speaking on Tuesday morning, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “Despite repeated efforts by the UK Government over many months to fix the protocol, including those sections related to the movement of goods and governance, the European Commission had not taken the steps necessary to help address the economic and political disruption on the ground.

“The Prime Minister reiterated that the UK Government would take action to protect peace and political stability in Northern Ireland if solutions could not be found.”

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, meanwhile, has said that he will not lead the DUP back into powersharing until the issue is resolved, suggesting the prospects of any quick return of the devolved powersharing Executive at Stormont are diminishing.

MLAs returned to Parliament Buildings on Monday and party leaders were also holding separate meetings with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.

Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said that the DUP and British Government must accept and respect the democratic result of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections.



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