Unionist backlash against PUP Deputy leader John Kyle support for Northern Ireland Protocol

The PUP has distanced itself from claims by its Deputy Leader Dr John Kyle that there are “real opportunities” from the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 1:06 pm
Updated Friday, 26th November 2021, 5:45 pm

Councillor John Kyle told BBC One’s The View last night: “There are real opportunities to secure and stabilise Northern Ireland — politically, economically & socially — if we use the opportunities that are presented in a reformed Northern Ireland protocol.” He said there was potential in the protocol if “fundamental” changes were made.

However his party released a statement in the wake of his comments which made it clear he was not speaking on behalf of the PUP.

“Last night on BBC’s The View Dr Kyle gave his personal opinion on the Protocol,” the party said. “He is entitled to do so but this is not the position of our party. Our position remains unchanged and is as set out in our constitutional statement. For the avoidance of doubt, the Protocol must go.”

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PUP Deputy Leader John Kyle said the NI Protocol provides opportunities. Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Dr Kyle appears to be the first elected unionist representative who has openly talked up the potential benefits of the protocol, while tough negotiations between the UK and EU on the issue continue.

In recent weeks the EU has welcomed “a change in tone” in the UK position, while the UK has repeatedly countered that significant gaps remain which must be resolved and that Article 16 remains a viable option if the differences cannot be solved.

There has been widespread concern that the protocol has hampered trade with GB while diverting NI trade to the Republic of Ireland, while unionists are also concerned that it has weakened the union at a constitutional level.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has repeatedly highlighted that not a single elected representative in NI is supporting the protocol - a claim Dr Kyle has now seriously challenged.

But UUP leader Doug Beattie defended Dr Kyle, noting that he is “saying the protocol needs fundamental change. This is not new.”

Mr Beattie added: “He has given an intelligent, thoughtful analysis including the collapse of Stormont would be bad for unionism. He is right....”.

However, the TUV firmly rejected Dr Kyle’s comments.

“Councillor John Kyle’s comments on The View last night found an attentive audience in some sections of the media and will be applauded by Nationalism but they are badly out of touch with the feelings of ordinary loyalists,” said East Belfast Assembly candidate John Ross. “More significantly; they are badly wrong. It is beyond belief that on the very day TUV leader Jim Allister highlighted the fact that the Protocol is leading to shortages of HRT medical supplies in Northern Ireland, Councillor Kyle was on the BBC talking about ‘significant opportunities’.”

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson also castigated Dr Kyle’s comments.

“No self respecting unionist will ever be, as John Kyle ridiculously puts it ‘embracing the Protocol’,” he said. “It’s bordering on sheer stupidity. The PUP needs to distance the party from this absolute madness.”

On social media, it appears that unionist comment has been generally critical towards Dr Kyle’s comments while nationalist opinion has been positive.

Commentator Chris Donnelly said: “John Kyle is helping prepare ground for the DUP & Jeffrey Donaldson, who must know the protocol isn’t going anywhere. Just hope John Kyle isn’t expecting to be thanked for that as he’ll be disappointed.

However one loyalist was typical of many others. “Time to consider your position,” he told Dr Kyle. “You’re either with us, or against us.”

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