Nigel Dodds: Westminster must stand up to Brussels to help Northern Ireland

The EU has behaved atrociously in recent days in seeking to ban Covid vaccines coming to the UK.

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds

But this hostile nationalistic approach has exposed more than the EU Commission’s nasty side. It has exposed its hypocrisy.

The legalistic rules-based principle lies in tatters.

Since the 2016 referendum, unionists have been lectured about no hard border in Ireland under any circumstances and that overriding the provisions of the protocol is a terrible thing. Let’s just remember the outcry against the Internal Market Bill.

Yet the EU turned everything on its head at the first opportunity when it suited their agenda. There was no consultation with London, Dublin or Belfast. The actions in Brussels were about putting Germany and France first. Northern Ireland was once again turned into a bargaining chip.

It’s little wonder people are outraged. It’s one rule for us and a different rule for the EU.

What the EU has done is to set a precedent. They have demonstrated that it is quite legitimate according to their own standards to invoke Article 16 for reasons of societal difficulties to protect their single market and to do so immediately without consultation.

Note that in their statement backing away from immediate invocation of Article 16 they reserved the right in paragraph 3 to invoke it at any time in the future saying that they will consider using all instruments at their disposal.

So they have not reneged from the use of Article 16, they just deferred it and reserved the right to use it in the future at any point.

There can now be no excuse for the UK government not to use the very same argument to eradicate the far worse societal difficulties being caused by the daily disruptions caused entirely by the protocol within the UK internal market. Indeed the UK government has the added ground of economic difficulties as allowed for in Article 16. So the UK government has an even stronger case to take action.

The UK government has a solemn duty to protect everyone in Northern Ireland from the economic damage being inflicted on our businesses and consumers and the growing societal difficulties as referenced the PSNI evidence to the Northern Ireland Select Committee last week.

The events of the weekend cannot simply be swept aside and a pretence that everything just carries on as normal. The EU has shown it can and will act to defend its internal market using the protocol to do so. It still remains ready to do what it takes using all instruments at its disposal as it says in its own words.

Will our government show the same willingness to stand up for our own internal market?

Lord Dodds is deputy leader of the DUP