EU’s protocol flexibilities ‘superficial and with strings attached’: Donaldson
New European Commission “flexibilites” around the NI Protocol have been dismissed by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as being “superficial and with strings attached”.
The series of EU proposals published on Tuesday, which include moves to ensure the supply to generic medicines from GB to Northern Ireland, will only “temporarily assuage some concerns,” the DUP leader added.
Checks and new rules for goods coming into NI, as required by the post-Brexit protocol, have already resulted in some disruption to trade.
In the proposal document, the commission says the potential solutions “demonstrate the Commission’s commitment to the people in Northern Ireland, and to the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement. The UK has not adopted a similar constructive attitude.”
Sir Jeffrey said: “The DUP is clear that nothing short of fundamental and lasting change to the current arrangements should be tolerated. Solutions which address the symptoms rather than the cause of the current disruption are doomed to fail.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie also said much more needs to be done.
“Any thing that dismantles the oppressive parts of the protocol, that just don’t work, is welcome, but there is so much more common sense that needs to be applied,” he said.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “While these measures may temporarily assuage some concerns, the reality is that they are superficial and come with even more strings attached.”
“The status quo leaves local businesses exposed to any new barriers to trade with Great Britain if and when the UK and EU rulebooks change in years to come. In this context the flexibilities announced today would offer little certainty or protection.
“There is a need for a durable alternative to the current protocol which avoids a cycle of repeated renegotiation within a failed framework. Ultimately east-west trading relationships and the principle of cross-community consent must be restored if we are to prevent further economic carnage and preserve the basis for political stability.”
The DUP leader said the protocol remains an “ongoing threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom and its internal market,” and added: “The threshold for robust action has long been exceeded. As more and more internal UK trade is diverted to the EU single market, it is imperative that the [UK] Government rejects any further attempts in Brussels to denigrate the legitimate concerns of businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland via sticking plasters and stalling tactics.
“This should mean setting a deadline for the conclusion of any renegotiation of the protocol and thereafter committing to unilateral steps to restore the territorial, economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom without further delay.”
Last week, the manufacturers of generic medicines said up to 2,000 drugs could become unavailable in NI once the protocol grace period expires at the end of this year.
Responding to the EU paper, Doug Beattie said the creation of a trade border in the Irish Sea must be reversed.
“I had the issue raised with me by Northern Ireland fishermen in Kilkeel just yesterday (Monday) – why is there a hard Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, so that our fishermen can’t go into their fishing grounds? And yet Irish fishing fleets are quite happy to go and fish off the coast of Wales but our own fishermen can’t fish in Irish waters.” Mr Beattie said that “an awful lot of common senses that still needs to be applied”.
He said: “Why are we checking Adsa’s goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland when Asda is a UK firm only? Just salami slice away the protocol where it doesn’t need to be there.
“And the protocol for me has two points to it. One is the trade issue, and if we look at that sensibly we can salami slice that away so that it no longer is an issue.
“The second one is the democratic deficit and not enough people are talking about that. We need to deal with that as well.”
Mr Beattie added: “So while we can say that any movement is welcome... and I can also accept that in some cases that the protocol can be good for certain businesses, the reality is it is still feast of famine for many, and we need to get it back to a sustainable basis.”
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