Boris says EU protocol stance is ‘frankly insane’ as Poots rumoured to be making major move to axe Irish Sea border checks

The prime minister has declared the EU’s interpretation of the NI Protocol to be “insane” amid rumours that today may see the DUP take long-awaited action over the issue.

By Adam Kula
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 7:58 am
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 1:40 pm

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson said it is his understanding that farming minister Edwin Poots will make good on an earlier pledge to halt all Irish Sea border checks at ports like Larne and Belfast.

Mr Poots had announced on the BBC’s airwaves 21 days ago that, legally speaking, “it would appear to us we need to have Executive support to continue to carry out the checks, therefore that will go to the Executive”.

If brought before the Executive at its weekly meeting today, the DUP would withhold consent for any such checks.

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And if rival parties succeed in blocking the matter from being discussed at the Executive, Mr Poots said he would stop the checks anyway.

“I need the support of the Executive to carry the checks out,” he said. “In the absence of Sinn Fein putting it on the table, the checks would stop.”

This tactic has been on the table ever since Mr Bryson began pushing it as a viable tactic earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson hit out at the protocol in comments to Parliament yesterday, saying he was “passionately indignant” about it, and that “frankly, the EU is implementing the protocol in an insane and pettifogging way”.

As he was peppered with accusations over the so-called “partygate” affair during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson was also quizzed about the Irish Sea border.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told him: “The cost of bringing goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has increased by 27% – when we can get access to those goods ...

“The prime minister talks about uniting this nation and levelling up; he could do that by removing the Irish Sea border and fully restoring Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.”

Mr Johnson replied: “I support passionately the right honourable gentleman’s indignation.

“I never thought, when we negotiated, that it’d mean 200 businesses would stop supplying Northern Ireland, foods being blocked and Christmas cards being surcharged.

“Frankly, the EU is implementing the protocol in an insane and pettifogging way. We need to sort it out and I completely support what the right honourable gentleman says.”

At the start of the month, Jamie Bryson issued a dossier under the branding of a group called Unionist Voice.

This, he said, was a collective of unnamed lawyers and academics, who had researched the legality of the protocol.

Put simply, they had arrived at the conclusion that, under the specific wording of the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to which it is linked, the whole 12-minister Stormont Executive must debate and approve the issue of protocol checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from GB.

The reason? Because the 1998 act says that “any significant or controversial matters” (besides those concerning the overall spending budget) must get consent from the Executive.

The same applies to matters which are “cross-cutting” (in other words, which affect more than one government department).

Mr Bryson and his associates say that since the protocol checks being carried out are both controversial and cross-cutting, they are unlawful without explicit Executive consent.

In a follow-up dossier released yesterday, Mr Bryson said: “At the time of writing the last Executive meeting of January looms (27th).

“I understand ... that the paper relating to protocol implementation will be submitted for consideration at this meeting.”

The News Letter asked Mr Poots and the DUP press office if the matter would indeed be raised at today’s meeting, but no response had been received at time of writing.

SDLP South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole said last night: “Minister Poots’ efforts to undermine international law by thwarting the protocol is a pathetically transparent attempt to shore up his party’s support.

“Does Edwin Poots expect to break both UK and international law and get away with it?”

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