Northern Ireland Protocol: Dublin talks down to us and tell us to change our mind, says DUP’s Sammy Wilson

The DUP has hit back at the Irish premier, claiming he is purely focused on the Republic of Ireland’s interests, after he warned of a “very serious situation” if the UK Government enacted legislation to scrap the bulk of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the legislation will cause “economic vandalism” on Northern Ireland.

He also said the European Union wants to avoid a trade war, and that the issues around the protocol can be resolved through negotiation.

But DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said the “utter failure” of the taoiseach “to recognise the flaws of the protocol shows he is focused on Dublin’s interests, not Northern Ireland’s”.

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Last week, the EU launched fresh legal action against the UK in retaliation over the prime minister’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will effectively rip up key parts of the deal signed by Mr Johnson and the EU in 2019.

“If this bill is enacted, I think we’re into a very serious situation. But of course, no-one in Northern Ireland and no-one in the island of Ireland wants Northern Ireland to lose access to the EU market,” Mr Martin told BBC’s ‘Sunday Morning’ programme,

“I think that’s one consistent thread. I think if we have a complete unilateral reneging on an international agreement, that the United Kingdom government itself signed up to, then of course we’re in a very serious situation.

“But we want to avoid that, nobody wants a trade war in any shape or form.

“We want this resolved. We believe it can be resolved with goodwill.”

Mr Martin said the legislation to undermine almost all aspects of the protocol is not acceptable.

“It represents unilateralism of the worst kind in terms of honouring and adhering to international agreements that governments adhere to and sign up to and ratify in their parliaments,” Mr Martin added.

“We accept fully there are legitimate issues around the operation of the protocol and we believe with serious, sustained negotiations between the European Union and United Kingdom government those issues could be resolved.”

He said the legislation is “deeply concerning” industry and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“In effect it represents a form of economic vandalism on Northern Ireland because if we look at any objective data, it is now showing that the Northern Ireland economy is doing very well. Manufacturing is doing very well,” Mr Martin added.

“The dairy industry, the meat industry, the food industry generally and agriculture is doing very well.

“There are certain areas where we can improve the protocol and we should continue to do that.”

But Mr Wilson accused Mr Martin of failing to recognise the flaws of the protocol.

“From day one Dublin has done what’s in Dublin’s interests and never once prioritised consensus in Northern Ireland,” Mr Wilson said.

“Not one unionist MP or MLA supports the protocol but instead of Dublin trying to understand or recognise our objections, they repeatedly lecture us, talk down to us and demand we change our mind.

“For two-and-a-half years unionism has urged Dublin and Brussels to change course yet for two-and-a-half years our viewpoint has been mocked and demonised.

“For Micheal Martin to grasp on to one or two recent manufacturing orders as cause to celebrate the protocol, is misdirected and exposes a fundamental misunderstanding.”

The protocol was agreed by the EU and UK after Brexit in order to prevent a hard EU customs border on the island of Ireland.

However, the EU customs checks have instead been moved to the Irish Sea, which the Ulster Farmers’ Union says is causing “havoc” with some commodities.

The Consumer Council says 130 GB firms have stopped supplying to NI with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis putting the figure at 200.

Last week Presbyterian Church spokesman Rev Trevor Gribben said the protocol “is not working” and that it has “unbalanced the delicate settlement that is the Good Friday Agreement”.