Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster meets loyalist paramilitary representatives over Brexit protocol

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds, pictured outside Westminster in 2018, met representatives of loyalist paramilitaries. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, along with deputy leader Nigel Dodds and East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, have met a representative group for loyalist paramilitaries over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

A party spokesman said they discussed opposition to the protocol within the community with the Loyalist Communities Council.

"We listened to the views expressed and the need for political and constitutional methods to safeguard the United Kingdom single market and ensure there is an unfettered flow of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland," he said.

The Loyalist Communities Council represents groups including the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando.

The meeting comes after Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said the British government is focused on making the protocol work, not ditching it.

Unionist politicians have demanded the end of the protocol, claiming it has driven an economic wedge between the north and the rest of the UK.

Earlier this month the chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council said the DUP needs to "read the public mood" and learn from mistakes made by the Ulster Unionists in the past.

David Campbell was criticised over comments he made regarding unionist anger at the Northern Ireland Protocol.

When asked were the days of loyalist fighting over, Mr Campbell said he "hoped so" but added “we live in an imperfect society and one fights in different ways”.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson previously warned of the potential for loyalist violence if the Irish Sea border remains in place.

The DUP MP claimed threats had been made against workers carrying out checks on goods at the north's ports and said the "real danger is that frustration and anger will be channelled through violence against easily identified targets".

He said groups who had engaged in violence in the past would use it again "if it is seen that political engagement does not work".

Read More: Co-Operation Ireland chief Peter Sheridan says loyalists aren't planning return to violence over Irish Sea border

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