Northern Ireland news

Conor Murphy calls for an end to 'grandstanding' over the protocol

Finance Minister Conor Murphy. Picture by Peter Morrison/PA Wire

CONOR Murphy has accused the British government and unionists of "grandstanding" over the Northern Ireland Protocol and creating a "distraction" with threats to unilaterally suspend part of post-Brexit trade arrangements.

The Sinn Féin minister was speaking after US President Joe Biden told Boris Johnson he was concerned at any moves to create a "closed border" in Ireland.

Mr Murphy said the president had provided the Tory with a "timely reminder" that a future US trade deal would jeopardise if he ditched the protocol.

Speaking at the Balmoral Show yesterday, the finance minister said a transatlantic trade deal would be conditional on the British government "not damaging the Good Friday Agreement".

"So, I think it was a timely reminder for the British prime minister exactly where he fits in overall politics and the extent of support in the American administration, in Europe, across this island... for the Good Friday Agreement arrangements to be able to be protected," he said.

"I hope that the British prime minister got that message and that he goes back and has a proper negotiation with the EU, that they resolve the issues of the protocol and we get on with actually taking advantage of the position that we have."

He said talk of the UK unilaterally suspending part of the protocol was a "distraction" and he urged Britain to "sit around the table with the EU and negotiate this out sensibly".

"The grandstanding both by the British government and by unionist parties here is a complete distraction for what needs to be done," he said.

DUP First Minister Paul Givan said the protocol had "trashed" the Good Friday Agreement by creating east-west barriers.

Also speaking at the Balmoral Show, where he accompanied DUP colleague and Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, Mr Givan said it was important that what President Biden had termed the "peace accords" were respected.

"So, I know in my engagements with the new United States Consul General (Paul Narain) here in Northern Ireland, they recognise the very real issues that the DUP has been presenting and the need for a solution to be found that respects our constitutional status as an integral part of the United Kingdom and delivers a practical solution so that we have that unfettered trade east-west, and indeed north-south," he said.

Mr Poots suggested the US administration had not read the Good Friday Agreement, in particular the elements around protecting and developing east-west relations.

He said the UK government rather than Washington was the "decision-maker" on the protocol.

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