Northern Ireland news

Dublin government ‘in solution-mode' on protocol after fresh unionist opposition

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the British government was "anxious to work with the European Union”. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Dominic McGrath and Jonathan McCambridge, PA

The Dublin government remains in “solution-mode” on Brexit, the Taoiseach said today, after the leaders of the north's four main unionist parties signed a joint declaration in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The declaration is signed by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP leader Doug Beattie, TUV leader Jim Allister and PUP leader Billy Hutchinson.

The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.

Asked in the Dáil about the next steps to be taken by the EU, Micheal Martin said: “What’s extremely important is that people do not do anything that will only further destabilise the situation in Northern Ireland.

“In my view, the institutions and stability of the institutions is paramount.

“The Government is remaining focused, calm and flexible, in solution-mode around the protocol and around the relationship between the European Union, and the United Kingdom.

“There has to be political will on all sides. There cannot be unilateralism.

“My sense up until quite recently was that the British government was anxious to work with the European Union,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.

“I think there is a route to getting this resolved. What’s extremely important is that people do not do anything that will only further destabilise the situation.”

Unionists have been vehemently opposed to the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which sees additional checks on goods arriving into the north from the rest of the UK.

The joint declaration says: “We, the undersigned unionist political leaders, affirm our opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, its mechanisms and structures and reaffirm our unalterable position that the protocol must be rejected and replaced by arrangements which fully respect Northern Ireland’s position as a constituent and integral part of the United Kingdom.”

The four leaders have also released a video in which they appear together.

In the video, Sir Jeffrey said: “Unionism stands united in opposing the protocol. The Irish Sea border must go.

“It undermines the union and is costing Northern Ireland £850m per year. It’s time for the Government to act.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement creates stability here in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Party support that Belfast Agreement.

“The protocol undermines the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Therefore we cannot support that.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The removal of the protocol is the imperative for anyone who cherishes our rightful place within the United Kingdom and who wishes to oppose the all-Ireland that the protocol is seeking to design.

“Now is the time for all unionists to stand strong and therefore I welcome this declaration of unalterable opposition to this iniquitous protocol.”

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said: “Unionism stands united today against the protocol.

“The British Government tore up the Act of Union and also the Belfast Agreement. In doing this they diluted our Britishness.

“Today we stand strong against the protocol and we call on the British Government to remove the protocol.”

Earlier this month, the DUP threatened to collapse powersharing at Stormont unless their demands on the protocol were met.

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond, who questioned Mr Martin in the Dail on the Northern Ireland Protocol, was critical of the declaration.

“I note the lack of reference to any realistic alternatives or to how Northern Ireland isn’t suffering the same issues that England currently is,” he tweeted today.

“EU remains ready to engage constructively.”

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