Northern Ireland news

Tory protocol bill will 'shred north's competitive advantage' says Claire Hanna

Claire Hanna said the NIO was talking to groups who were 'actively involved in criminality, racketeering, threatening journalists and politicians'

BRITISH government legislation that aims to disapply key elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol will "shred the competitive advantage" the north has gained in the past 18 months, it was claimed last night.

SDLP MP Claire Hanna said the contentious Tory bill would "inject further instability" into the north's already tense political environment.

She was speaking as House of Commons leader Mark Spencer yesterday announced that the controversial legislation has been scheduled to receive its second reading on June 27.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcomed the announcement which will see MPs debate the main principles of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and decide whether it can proceed for further consideration.

The Lagan Valley MP, who has vowed to block the formation of a Stormont executive until his party's concerns over the Irish Sea border are resolved, hailed the move as "welcome and sensible".

"It is important that this bill now progresses rapidly through its legislative stages in the Commons before the summer recess," he said.

While others have opposed the proposed legislation, Sir Jeffrey has argued that, if enacted, it will assuage unionists.

The British government, which agreed the protocol with the EU 18 months ago, now argues that the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement.

However, the EU has warned of retaliatory action if the bill is enacted, while the Biden administration is also concerned about its implications for the peace process.

Sir Jeffrey encouraged MPs to back the protocol bill, saying talks between the UK and the EU have "failed to deliver solutions to the fundamental everyday problems brought about by the protocol".

"It is important that this bill now progresses rapidly through its legislative stages in the Commons before the summer recess and we will want to see that not only does the bill receive substantial support at Westminster, but that it is not subject to either wrecking amendments or indeed other amendments that would dilute the framework and impact of the bill," he said.

"We want to see the Northern Ireland Assembly and executive restored and that can be achieved when there is a sustainable basis for doing so.

"We will continue to be condition and not calendar led as we look forward to this bill now making rapid progress."

But Ms Hanna criticised the British government legislation, warning that it could have an economic impact.

"The protocol legislation is now roundly accepted as a wilful breach of international law that will further erode confidence in the UK government among its international partners and inject further instability into a difficult political situation in Northern Ireland," she told The Irish News last night.

"Worse still, disapplying sections of the protocol will shred the competitive advantage that has helped deliver higher levels of economic activity in Northern Ireland for no discernible benefit because the DUP refuses to commit to the restoration of devolution."

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