Arlene Foster demands Northern Ireland Brexit protocol is DITCHED


DUP chief Arlene Foster today demanded Boris Johnson ditches the Northern Ireland protocol amid fears over rising sectarian tensions and EU threats. 

The First Minister warned that the Brexit provisions have ‘not worked and cannot work’, saying undermining the links between Ulster and mainland Britain was upsetting the ‘delicate’ peace settlement.

The intervention came after Michael Gove held crisis talks with his Brussels opposite number over the way the arrangements, designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, were operating. 

They are set to meet again next week, after the EU was forced to drop an extraordinary move to suspend the protocol and block vaccine exports to shore up its shambolic rollout. 

Yesterday Boris Johnson threatened to axe parts of the agreement unless the EU agrees to ease checks on goods crossing from the UK.

Amid growing tensions in Northern Ireland, graffiti has been daubed on buildings and checks at ports have been suspended following threats against staff

Amid growing tensions in Northern Ireland, graffiti has been daubed on buildings and checks at ports have been suspended following threats against staff

DUP chief Arlene Foster today demanded Boris Johnson ditches the Northern Ireland protocol amid fears over rising sectarian tensions and EU threats

DUP chief Arlene Foster today demanded Boris Johnson ditches the Northern Ireland protocol amid fears over rising sectarian tensions and EU threats

The PM vowed to do ‘everything we need to do’ to ensure trade is conducted as smoothly as possible across the Irish Sea border.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mrs Foster said Mr Johnson had committed to protect the UK internal market, and ‘must now back up those words with tangible actions that protect the integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom’.

‘The Northern Ireland Protocol has not worked, cannot work and in light of our proposals to the Government, needs to be replaced,’ she wrote.

‘Indeed, across Northern Ireland there is growing anger at the current arrangements. The delicate political balance and relationships in Northern Ireland have been damaged and disturbed by the Protocol.’

Ian Paisley Jr, also of the DUP, echoed his party leader’s words, telling BBC’s Newsnight: ‘The first 34 days of this year have been absolute and total chaos for the citizens of Northern Ireland.

‘This has been an unmitigated disaster. I can’t imagine that’s what they planned but this is how it has worked out and therefore we’ve got to fix it and fix it fast.’

As part of Brexit negotiations, the UK and EU agreed to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is designed to avoid the need for physical border checkpoints on the island of Ireland.

But this has led to disruption on goods crossing the Irish Sea, with new checks imposed on those moving from the mainland to Ulster.

Since the arrangements came into force on January 1, supermarkets have reported depleted shelves while concerns have been raised that Northern Ireland’s place within the UK is being undermined.

Amid growing tensions, graffiti has been daubed on buildings and checks at ports have been suspended following threats against staff.

A group of masked men were pictured on the streets of east Belfast, but this has been linked to an internal row within the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force rather than Brexit.

At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Mr Johnson said he would take the drastic step of suspending parts of the Brexit agreement unless the problems can be resolved in crisis talks with the EU.

The Government has demanded some checks are removed, while existing grace periods on goods such as chilled meats are extended until 2023.

Under Article 16 of the protocol, either side are able to unilaterally suspend aspects of the arrangements if they are causing major problems.

The Prime Minister was asked what action he will take by DUP MP Ian Paisley, who said his North Antrim constituents had been made to feel like foreigners in their own country.

‘Tea and sympathy will not cut the mustard,’ the son of the late Reverend Ian Paisley added.

Mr Johnson responded: ‘We will do everything we need to do, whether legislatively or indeed by triggering Article 16 of the protocol, to ensure that there is no barrier down the Irish Sea.’

The Prime Minister spoke to Stormont first minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster yesterday morning. According to the DUP, Mr Johnson told her he believed the checks had gone ‘beyond the bounds of common sense’ and said he wanted to resolve the outstanding issues by the end of next month.

Mr Gove last night took part in a video conference with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, Mrs Foster and Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein. 

In a joint statement, Mr Gove and Mr Sefcovic last night said they had agreed the two sides would ‘immediately work intensively to find solutions to outstanding issues’ with a meeting to be held in London next week. 

Tensions over the protocol were heightened following the events of last Friday when the European Commission was forced to backtrack on a threat to use Article 16 to stop the export of vaccines to the UK. 

In his letter to Mr Sefcovic, Mr Gove accused the EU of making a ‘grave error’ that had ‘profoundly undermined the operation of the protocol and cross-community confidence in it’. 



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