NI Protocol: Jim Allister accuses Boris Johnson of ‘calculated slight’ to 65,000 TUV voters

The prime minister and his NIO ministers have been accused of a calculated slight against more than 65,000 people who voted for TUV in the Assembly election.

Boris Johnson leaves Hillsborough Castle after his talks with the five main parties
Boris Johnson leaves Hillsborough Castle after his talks with the five main parties

Boris Johnson failed to meet TUV leader Jim Allister during his one-day visit to Northern Ireland on Monday.

Mr Allister had written to Secretary of State Brandon Lewis requesting a meeting with the prime minister while he was in the Province.

In his reply Mr Lewis wrote: “Thank you for your letter of 13 May and congratulations on your re-election.

“The Prime Minister has asked me to respond to your letter on his behalf, as due to diary pressures, he is unable to meet you today. However, the office of the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Conor Burns MP, is seeking to arrange a conversation between yourself and the minister. Please be assured that your views from that conversation will be relayed to the Prime Minister.”

In response Mr Allister released a letter he wrote back to the Northern Ireland secretary: “I refer to your dismissive response of today’s date. In refusing me a meeting with the PM you deliver a calculated slight upon the 65,000 people who voted TUV just ten days ago. These are not second class voters and I will not have them treated as such. Thus the paltry offer of a meeting with your junior minister is not acceptable.

Yours in disgust. Jim Allister.”

The Alliance Party, meanwhile, in their meeting with Mr Johnson told the prime minister the only way to end the constant cycle of collapse and crises in the political system here was to reform the Stormont institutions.

Naomi Long, the Alliance leader, said: “If parties are going to exercise vetoes, which has happened throughout the lifetime of the Assembly, we need to find a way to work around it or else the people of Northern Ireland will continue to be held hostage.

“That is not an acceptable way to government and needs to change. Those who don’t designate as unionist or nationalist must be given the opportunity to play a constructive role or else there will likely be similar cycles of collapse in the future.”

Mrs Long said she also told the prime minister that there is “a clear majority of parties and businesses here who wish to see pragmatic changes to the protocol”.

She criticised an expected move by the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday to set the scene or make a statement on unilateral changes to the protocol.

“That is not the way to do business. Trust is the key ingredient and that involves keeping agreements, not breaking them. There is talk about safe landing zones on this matter. But as the pilot, Boris Johnson and the UK government is poised to crash the plane today,” she added.

Speaking after his meeting with Mr Johnson, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it was impossible to trust the prime minister given his record over the last two years.

“He has recklessly used this place to serve his own narrow political interests and once again he is on the verge of overriding the interests of the majority of people here for his own ends,” he said.

Mr Eastwood continued: “I accept and acknowledge that for some people, the operation of the protocol has posed a difficult and fundamental challenge to their identity. I regret that they feel isolated. It was my preference that no new borders emerged anywhere on these islands but Boris Johnson, cheered on by the DUP, opposed every effort to avoid new barriers.

“What I will not accept, however, is that tinkering with the protocol is more important than providing support for working families that can’t put food on the table and heat their home. It is not more important than transforming our health service so that people can get the treatment they need without waiting in agony.

“This farce cannot continue. People need and deserve the power of government working to address the challenges they face. It is time for the DUP to work with the rest of us to restore Stormont and get on with the job that people elected us to do.”

Former UUP leader Steve Aiken said that the so-called ‘landing zone’ solution is quite simple – no border checks on internal UK goods.

“That is the direction of travel we should be going in, “ he said.