Northern Ireland Protocol: DUP and UUP say US congressmen now accept dispute is not ‘manufactured’

The DUP and UUP say that US congressmen visiting NI to address the Northern Ireland Protocol dispute have accepted that they were wrong to describe it as “a manufactured issue”.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 2:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 6:32 pm

The unionist parties have also told the News Letter that the US delegation has accepted that there should be no Irish Sea Border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Consumer Council said last week that 130 firms in GB have now stopped trading with Northern Ireland while Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has put the figure at 200.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the News Letter today that he hoped the US delegation led by Congressman Richard Neal would publicly confirm today what they had affirmed in private with unionists.

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Senior US Democrat Richard Neal had angered unionists by describing the NI Protocol dispute as a "manufactured issue". Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Also today, UUP leader Doug Beattie confirmed that he and his UUP Assembly team will turn up for the Stormont recall next Monday although a UUP spokesperson stressed the party did not sign the petition that led to the recall.

However it is not known at this stage whether this will lead to the restoration of the assembly.

Later, Mr Neal, who said his meeting with the DUP went “very well”, said unionist apprehensions about the protocol were “legitimate”.

He said: “I think I was very clear in the meeting that I had with the DUP that while I don’t want to see a hard border on the island, I also pointed out to them that I understood the apprehension that they have raised about a border in the Irish Sea – I thought that they were very receptive to that argument.”

Mr Neal added: “I would like to see the issue negotiated.

“I thought that the apprehension that they raised was legitimate. I think that there is an acknowledgment that there are some problems with the protocol.

“We want to see them smoothed over and repaired.”

But he reiterated his stance that he did not view the situation as a “crisis”.

“I believe that it is a problem to be solved, it is not a crisis,” Mr Neal said.

Responding to unionist criticism over his description of the Brexit trade dispute as a “manufactured issue”, Mr Neal acknowledged he could have “picked a more artful term to describe the now impasse that has been reached”.

He added: “But anybody that would suggest that it was maliciously intended would be misguided.”