Solutions advocated in Protocol Bill must form part of negotiating position – Beattie

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Solutions advocated in Protocol Bill must form part of negotiating position – Beattie

Ulster Unionist Party leader, Doug Beattie MC MLA, said:

“It is frustrating at times to listen to the commentary around the Northern Ireland Protocol and remain silent because you know that joining these disingenuous arguments seems to add fuel to the fire.  However, it is also important to lay out the truth which has been hidden as both the EU and the UK attempt to blame each other on the breakdown of relations.


“During our visit to Brussels in March of this year we made it clear to the European Commission Vice President, Maroš Šefčovič, that it was important to continue with intensive dialogue in order to find a solution prior to the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections. Not to do so would mean that there may be nothing to salvage after the elections.  We repeated the same message to the UK Ambassador to the EU during the same visit. However the response from both quarters was that they would be suspending substantive talks until after the assembly election and thus, in our mind, lose the momentum that had been gained.


“For the Irish Foreign Minister to attempt to lay blame purely at the UK Government’s door for no substantive talks since February is simply not correct. Neither is it correct that VAT and State Aid rules are a big issue for the Irish Government. Indeed in talks recently it was made clear that neither of these were a major problem for the Irish Government. Clearly what is being said behind closed doors is not what is being said in the mainstream media and that is frustrating.


“The Ulster Unionist Party has always advocated for a negotiated settlement on the issue around the protocol, but we cannot continue this circular argument purely because of trust issues as our businesses suffer and we go without a devolved government. Had we not overcome trust issues or at least parked them in 1998 we would never have had the Belfast Agreement. If we stand back and look at the Protocol Bill with objectivity there are clearly solutions outlined within it and it is those solutions which must form part of the negotiating position.


“As a Party we have been advocating for a green lane approach – no checks on goods from GB to Northern Ireland if their end destination is NI – since 2019 and only now has it become the accepted position of all the main players. The dual regulatory system can work, but there must be more detail or we risk flipping the Irish Sea Border as manufacturers are asked to produce Country of Origin Certificates to move their goods from Northern Ireland to the UK.


“The issue of the role of the ECJ is inextricably linked to the democratic deficit and even now Northern Ireland is being inundated by EU rules and regulations that are neither known about or scrutinised in the manner they should be. Indeed, the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the Protocol is the only committee looking at Explanatory Memoranda which outline rules and laws that now apply in Northern Ireland. They get sent to individual Stormont departments, some get acknowledged, others do not, but all become law.


“I am very concerned that EU retaliatory measures to the UK`s Protocol Bill will make things a lot worse before they get better. This could see talks completely suspended until after the summer when negotiations will restart between the UK and EU to deal with the issues contained in the unilateral legislation. So in many ways this legislation is an agitation piece that is intent on disrupting the endless circular conversation that has been taking place for the last 18 months.


“The Ulster Unionist Party have always advocated for negotiations, but when those negotiations are at an impasse it is important to change direction, create alternatives and renew the negotiations from a differing standpoint.  Like or dislike the Protocol Bill, argue about whether it will become legislation or not, which will be a bone of contention for many months, but in the end it will create the space for renewed negotiations in the future to deal with the flawed Northern Ireland protocol.”