‘Long past the point’ for Westminster to take action over protocol says TUV leader Jim Allister at north Belfast anti protocol rally

The TUV leader has warned that it is “long past the point” at which Westminster should have taken action over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

By Michael Cousins
Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 10:19 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 10:42 am

Jim Allister addressed a rally against the protocol in north Belfast on Friday.

Referring to claims contained in a report by the Financial Times that ministers are preparing legislation giving them sweeping powers to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement, he said: “It will take more than a story to solve the protocol issue.

“For months the Government have been suggesting that they will move on the border which shamefully divides the United Kingdom but there has been no delivery.

Jim Allister speaking during the rally in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol at Brownlow House in Lurgan, Co Armagh, on Friday April 8, 2022

“Now, on the verge of an election, there is yet another suggestion that something may be done.

“It’s long past the point when action should have been taken to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.

“Article 6 of the Acts of Union which guarantees freedom of trade within and between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom must be fully restored, not left subjugated by the protocol.

“The test of any deal will be is Northern Ireland still subject to a foreign single market for goods, foreign customs code, a foreign VAT regime, all overseen by foreign laws and a foreign court?

“Such oppressive subjugation is not something anyone who cares about basic democratic accountability could ever contemplate.

“Here we are – on the verge of an election – yet something in the region of 60% of the laws governing our economy are made not by MLAs or MPs but by the EU, a body into which we have no input.

“Such a travesty never was and never can be acceptable. No unionist should ever have played along with such a state of affairs – as shamefully happened with the disastrous Poots’ Posts.

“It is vital that on election day unionists come out in force and vote for the pro-Union, anti-protocol candidates.”

Meanwhile, another anti-protocol rally took place in east Belfast.

A number of speakers addressed the rally, including the Orange Order’s Mervyn Gibson.

He said: “We stand on this platform as unionists opposed to the protocol. We may differ on other points, we may have different emphasis and priorities, but we stand here this evening united against the protocol. I know many of you out there – and you have different allegiances, you belong to different bands, you support different football teams, for all I know there may even be some blue men here this evening.

“This generation faces a new threat – the protocol, a threat that came from within, a threat that was negotiated and agreed by Boris (Johnson).”

The Belfast rallies are the latest in a series which have been taking place across Northern Ireland outlining unionist and loyalist opposition to the post-Brexit protocol, which sees additional checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

It is strongly opposed by unionists as a border in the Irish Sea.

Several hundred people attended the protests across Belfast, which also included a number of bands.

East Belfast Assembly candidate Joanne Bunting claimed “our culture and identity has been under attack for decades”.

“We will not be diminished and we refuse to be demonised,” she told the east Belfast crowd.

“To the Irish Government, we say we will work with you as neighbours but mind your own business. Look after your own country and keep your nose out of the internal affairs, trade and constitutional position of this United Kingdom.

“To the EU, we say we are not your bargaining chip, we are not your leverage and we will not be your hostage and we are not a divorce settlement.”

Loyalist activist Moore Holmes also addressed the rally.

He said: “What we have witnessed this evening is a fantastic demonstration of unity and solidarity right throughout the unionist and loyalist community against the protocol.

“It cannot end here. The same unity of purpose we must demonstrate in the voting booths on May 5 and must be shown after the election.”