Empey: EU as much to blame as PM for crisis
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The Ulster Unionist peer also warned that the current legal chaos surrounding plans to send migrants to Rwanda could be replicated in potential protracted ‘lawfare’ over the bill aimed at overriding the protocol.
He called for immediate renewed negotiations between the UK and EU rather than the “childish finger pointing” since Liz Truss’ legislation was published earlier this week.
“It is deeply disappointing to hear, in the last 24 hours, the reaction from the EU over the NI Protocol. The EU as well as the UK is as responsible as anyone for the position we are in today,” Sir Reg said.
He continued: “It is no longer acceptable for Northern Ireland and its businesses and consumers to be left in the middle as the EU argues with the UK.
“I call for immediate talks between the UK and EU and insist that the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland are at the table.
“We are sick, sore and tired of others making decisions on our future without us being there. Let them come to Stormont and sit down with us face to face and settle this.”
The former UUP leader pointed out that it was Mr Johnson’s push for a hard Brexit that produced the protocol deal with the EU.
“We should never have been in this position in the first place and warnings given by my party were ignored. Those who advocated an ill-prepared Brexit and initially accepted Boris Johnson’s proposal for a border in the Irish Sea have a lot to answer for.”
He said there was now a real danger that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill could get mired in endless parliamentary and legal wrangling while the Province endures the cost-of-living crisis.
“The legal chaos over the Rwanda policy should be a warning to us of what lies ahead if we do not see meaningful action now. We could be bogged down in legal arguments for months. Northern Ireland cannot afford this.”
Sir Reg added: “Our aim must be treaty change to end the constitutional damage caused by the protocol. The Ulster Unionist Party will not be satisfied by merely tinkering with the operation of the protocol, helpful in the short term though that may be.”