Northern Ireland news

Dublin rubbishes Jeffrey Donaldson's claim that protocol aimed to isolate north from Britain

It was claimed the Dublin government negotiated the protocol to separate the north from Britain

THE Dublin government last night rubbished claims by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson that it used the protocol element of the Withdrawal Agreement to deliberately isolate the north from Britain.

The Lagan Valley MP has said the Republic's government was partially motivated by a desire to "see an increased separation between Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

It is thought to be first time the DUP has accused Dublin of intentionally cutting off the north from the rest of the UK, seemingly to increase the likelihood of a united Ireland.

The DUP rejected Theresa May's original proposal to keep the whole UK in the customs union, thus avoiding both a hard land border and regulatory checks on goods moving across the Irish Sea.

The alternative Withdrawal Agreement agreed with the EU, including the protocol element, was ratified by Boris Johnson's government in January last year.

Sir Jeffrey yesterday claimed the disruption caused by the protocol risked breaching the Good Friday Agreement by separating the north from "our biggest trading partner, our biggest trading market".

"Being a unionist I want to make the case for the union, but it makes it difficult when you have this kind of imposition," he told the Radio 4's Today programme.

"I've no doubt that part of the motive of the Irish government in pressing for this was to see an increasing separation between Great Britain and Northern Ireland – that is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement itself."

The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the DUP MP's comments, which came in a week when the party has also blamed the protocol on the British government and other Stormont parties.

However, a Dublin government source dismissed Sir Jeffrey's claim, telling The Irish News it was "nonsense and a distractionary tactic".

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard accused the DUP of "factual gymnastics" and claimed the party had "spurned the opportunity to work in partnership with others" to limit the impact of Brexit.

"As a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish government sought to work with all across this island and in Europe to help protect our peace process, our all-Ireland economy and limit the harm of Brexit wherever possible," he said.

"The DUP had the opportunity to engage in that process with Sinn Féin and others – they instead chose Boris Johnson and the Tories."

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole said the DUP was attempting to "impute motives on others' actions".

"Since it needs to be said for the thousandth time: the DUP wanted Brexit and campaigned for it – not Remain parties in Northern Ireland and not the Irish government," he said.

"As for our party, our vision of relations on the island of Ireland and relations between Britain and Ireland has always been grounded in a belief in the transformative power of common EU membership."

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