NI Tory: We’re not hiding from protocol

The leader of the Northern Ireland Conservatives has denied the party is hiding from the protocol issue during the Assembly election campaign.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 1st April 2022, 8:09 am

Tory candidate for North Down Matthew Robinson insisted his party shares the UK government’s position that “the protocol does not work and needs fixed.”

Mr Robinson faced criticism this week from a former Conservative candidate for not including any reference to the protocol in his election literature.

But Mr Robinson said he fully supported the government’s efforts to renegotiate the post-Brexit trade deal which unionists charge is decoupling Northern Ireland economically and constitutionally from the UK.

Signage at the DAERA offices in Belfast

He said: “The protocol is an important challenge, don’t get me wrong, and we will speak to this in our later election communication mailing in North Down, however there are other challenges that this election can more readily have an impact on.”

The Conservative candidate pointed to a recent University of Liverpool survey which found that 60% of those polled in Northern Ireland ranked health, Covid recovery and the economy a higher priority than “the intricacies of the protocol”.

Mr Robinson added: “This has been borne out in the conversations with constituents that I have had so far and even when the protocol comes up it quickly moves to other subjects such as health and the cost-of-living crisis.”

He also criticised the EU over its attitude to the protocol accusing Brussels of not being constructive.

The chair of the Northern Ireland Tories comments came after DUP MP Ian Paisley accused the Conservatives of morphing more into an “English nationalist party”.

Mr Paisley said that although the perception was that the Tories were the DUP’s natural allies he found that Labour gave Northern Ireland a “far better deal”.

Speaking to GB News, the North Antrim MP said: “Yes, the Conservatives call themselves the Conservative and Unionist Party, but I believe that the Conservative Party today is becoming more and more an English nationalist party that doesn’t really understand what’s going on in Scotland, certainly in Northern Ireland, and in other regions.”