Northern Ireland news

Neale Richmond: British government unilateral protocol move 'most disappointing yet'

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond
Neale Richmond


Neale Richmond

Fine Gael TD

Dublin Rathdown

FOR those of us who have been following Brexit for the past six years, the antics of the British government this week have been purely baffling.

The British government have published legislation which overrides the Northern Ireland Protocol, breaks international law and puts the people, businesses and indeed the peace in Northern Ireland at risk.

This legislation beggars belief – the British government believe it is acceptable to remove the role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in governing the protocol, they believe that businesses can ‘choose' between adhering to EU or UK rules, while still insisting that a negotiated agreement is their preference. Has the British government been listening to any of the concerns raised by the EU or Northern Ireland over the past six years? If they have, they are certainly ignoring them.

The moves by the British government this week are pure fantasy, more suited to Willy Wonka than a serious politician. We are harkening back to the time of ‘alternative arrangements' and technological solution with proposals for ‘green' and ‘red' lanes with different levels of checks, clearly not feasible or easily monitored.

To add insult to injury, the British government have taken this course of action while claiming to respect the EU's intention to protect the Single Market. This is pure and simple gaslighting; if the EU truly cared about the Single Market or Northern Ireland, they would be taking a much different course of action both this week and over the past six years.

Just because the UK government claim something to be true does not make it so. Claiming that there is a democratic deficit with the protocol when Maroš Šef?ovi? spent months engaging with businesses and the people of Northern Ireland is insulting. How can there be a democratic deficit when the UK have refused to engage with the negotiations for months?

If passed and enacted, this clear breach of the Withdrawal Agreement and of international law will lead to a wide range of consequences; none of which will be positive for the UK or the EU. We have already seen the EU resume their previously paused legal action against the UK following this move. The British government seem blind to the consequences of this move. They claim the protocol is causing a ‘chilling effect on trade' but when compared to the possible collapse of the Withdrawal Agreement, I think we can all agree the status quo is far superior.

This is not to say the protocol is perfect, both the UK government and the European Commission recognise that there are issues there. The commission have engaged with these problems and presented clear and sensible solutions, but the UK government have refused to engage with them.

What we are seeing this week is the UK government blatantly ignoring the will of the people of Northern Ireland, negating their responsibilities and risking their reputation on the international stage all for the sake of international politics. Clearly, this move is about far more than the protocol or the Good Friday Agreement.

After six years of Brexit shenanigans, this is by far the most disappointing move yet.

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