Unionism can win the arguments about the Protocol without wrecking Stormont – Empey

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Unionism can win the arguments about the Protocol without wrecking Stormont – Empey

Ulster Unionist Peer, Lord Empey said:

“When the Protocol was about to be implemented, the Alliance, Greens, SDLP and Sinn Fein called for its “rigorous” implementation.  Twelve months later, all of these parties have retreated from that position.


“The Protocol and the way it is being implemented is injurious to Northern Ireland, and significant changes are needed.


“The measures and checks being required are totally disproportionate to any risk posed to the EU Single Market. With total trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland only equivalent to 0.0008% of total EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and only 20% of that being potentially exportable to the EU Single Market, one can see that things are totally out of proportion.


“It should be possible to negotiate a bespoke agreement on animal products – the EU has such agreements with other third countries. This could eliminate most of the friction between our two markets.


“There are other ways in which the Constitutional damage and the huge democratic deficit can be dealt with if the will is there to do so. Both the EU and the UK say they agreed the Protocol to ‘protect the Good Friday Agreement.’ Well, if that is the case, they are badly mistaken. I don’t believe it does any such thing. However, I do believe that the Institutions of the Agreement can be used and appropriately modified, to solve some of our problems.


“Where I disagree fundamentally with the tactics of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is that in copying Sinn Fein in bringing down the Executive, he has created disarray and damage to morale throughout Northern Ireland. It also gives republicans the opportunity to claim that Northern Ireland is a ‘failed political entity’ and it gifts Sinn Fein with the opportunity to place their own shopping list of demands on the table before they would go back into government. I well recall that, in order to get Sinn Fein to go back into Stormont in January 2020, the DUP had to concede the Irish Language Act.


“Sir Jeffrey is also pinning his hopes on the Government triggering Article 16 of the Protocol. This is a mechanism to safeguard the Protocol, but it does require a new negotiation. However, as stated by Lord Frost triggering Article 16 does not damage the Protocol, it continues.


“The real problem the DUP have created for themselves and the rest of us was their ill-advised and inexplicable decision to back Boris Johnson’s proposal in October 2019 to the EU for a border in the Irish Sea, describing it as ‘a serious and sensible way forward’.


“Unionism can win this argument but do so in a democratic way without destroying Stormont and damaging the lives and livelihoods of all the people living here whether or not they support the Union.”