Protocol offer is first key test for new DUP leader

A “sensible offer” which could remove 80% of the post-Brexit checks at Northern Ireland’s ports is the first key test for new DUP leader Edwin Poots, the SDLP leader has said.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 11:22 am

Colum Eastwood was speaking after European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic suggested a temporary Swiss-style deal as a solution for Northern Ireland, where the UK continues to follow all EU agrifood rules.

However, also speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Poots said he wanted a permanent solution to remove the barriers.

Mr Eastwood criticised what he termed a “knee-jerk dismissal of this offer”.

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Edwin Poots

“The European Commission is now publicly offering the sensible solution of a veterinary agreement, similar to the deal which already operates between EU countries and Switzerland,” he said.

“We know this Swiss-style deal would automatically remove 80% of the protocol checks overnight. This is exactly the solution the SDLP has been calling on for months.”

He added: “This offer on the Protocol is the first key test for the new DUP leadership. Edwin Poots has a choice – he can either work with us on this sensible solution or he can continue down the path of division, threats and political dead ends.

“He needs to carefully reflect on that choice, because real leadership means focusing on healing divisions across our whole community, not just obsessing on divisions within his own political party.

“This offer is now an opportunity to finally resolve the issues around the protocol and allow us all to get back to the real issues that people in Northern Ireland need us to focus on.”