The new DUP leader Edwin Poots accused EU commissioners of not caring about peace in Northern Ireland after its insistence that the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed between Brussels and Britain must be fully implemented despite the damage it is doing both economically and socially to the province.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Poots called once again for the Protocol to be ditched and for Brussels to change its hardline approach.
“We have violence on our streets in Northern Ireland that hasn’t been the case for years – and that’s on the back of this Protocol,” Poots claimed.
“And it vexes me because the European Commission over the years have put their heart and soul into winning peace in Northern Ireland and the current batch of Commissioners don’t seem to care for the peace process in Northern Ireland and that really needs to change, that attitude needs to change.
“They are doing demonstrable harm to every individual in Northern Ireland and it’s having a devastating impact.”
When questioned about what needs to happen to reduce tensions in Northern Ireland, Poots called for both the British government and Brussels to ditch the Protocol, explaining that when the current grace period ends, “we’re going to have 15,000 checks per week of goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
“So there’s going to be more checks in the port of Belfast and Larne than there is in Rotterdam – Europe’s biggest port!”
“We’ll have more checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland than there is between Russia, Ukraine, Moldova – all those countries on the eastern part of the European Union. Are they more trustworthy trading partners than Great Britain?” asked Poots.
“And of course that isn’t the case so we really need to ditch the Protocol and ditch these checks because they’re really damaging,” he concluded.
The DUP has maintained its vociferous opposition to the Protocol since Great Britain withdrew from customs union rules at the start of the year. Poots’ colleague Ian Paisley MP has initiated proceedings against the British government, accused it of treating British citizens in Northern Ireland like “foreigners in our own country”, insisting that ministers have the “power and the responsibility” to defy Brussels and “fix this.”
Paisley has joined forces with a haulage firm to file an epic class action lawsuit against the government on the basis the Northern Ireland Protocol infringes citizens’ rights. A crowdfunder for the expensive litigation has recently surpassed £5,000.