‘Loyalists must be listened to’... says MP who insists NI Protocol must stay

UUP peer Sir Reg Empey has criticised what he sees as the contradictory message from Labour over the NI Protocol.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 9:14 am

Sheffield MP Louise Haigh who was elevated to the shadow cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn and has been the party’s NI spokeswoman for a year, declared last week that people felt they are “simply not being listened to or heard” after she visited the loyalist Sandy Row and Shankill districts of Belfast.

It followed riots in those areas, sparked largely by anger at the NI Protocol and the barriers it has created between NI and GB.

“They feel they are not being represented in politics, they desperately need to see leadership,” she said after meeting loyalists on the ground.

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16th April 2021 Louise Haigh, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, with Shankill Road Community worker Jackie Redpath at Lanark Way peace gates in west Belfast

Unionists have loudly demanded that the protocol must be scrapped.

However, Ms Haigh herself supports the NI Protocol.

She has said in the Commons that “although the protocol is far from perfect, it must be made to work” (January 13);

That the government must “ensure that the protocol is never again undermined... all sides have a profound responsibility to uphold the protocol and ensure that it works for all communities” (February 2);

And that people must not “push the protocol to breaking point, and undermine the cast-iron commitment to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland” (March 10).

Sir Reg, one of the fiercest critics of the Protocol from the outset, said that while he believes Ms Haigh “does care” about Northern Ireland, there is “a fundamental contradiction” in her message.

“Because what she’s actually saying is people like myself, and the people she was talking to that she says are not represented, are being asked to co-operate and collaborate with a border within the UK!” he said.

“To treat that as if it’s normal and acceptable, and to make it work!

“That’s asking water to flow uphill.

“Why should we, who believe in the UK, be asked to be complicit in weakening the Union? Because what effectively the Protocol is.”

He added that was “asking us to effectively politically dig our graves – why would we do that?”

When it comes to the actual ramifications of the Protocol, Sir Reg told the News Letter: “We’ve been, to a point, expelled from the UK single market in a whole range of areas without any consent, or without even being asked.”

He said that unionists must recognise that London has “ceded control of part of its territory to a foreign power – you can dress it up any way you like, but that’s what it means”.

Ms Haigh was asked if she wished to respond, but no reply was forthcoming.

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