Ulster Unionist proposals to set up a cross-border body to solve problems with the Protocol have come under fire.
Former DUP special advisor Tim Cairns said the suggestion was a “non-starter” for any right thinking unionist, whilst Sammy Wilson and TUV man Jim Allister also weighed in with criticism.
The UUP officially tabled its Protocol Alternatives Paper yesterday, re-stating a 2019 proposal to set up a “cross-border compliance body treaty with the Irish Republic”.
The proposal had come back into the spotlight on Monday when the Irish News carried an interview with UUP leader Doug Beattie in which he discussed the merits of such a body.
Mr Beattie later issued a statement outlining his position.
It prompted a strong reaction from unionists who believe this would further weaken relations with GB.
The UUP proposals include:
>> UK legislation to ensure companies have a duty to ensure equality of provision to all regions of the UK
>> Creating a new criminal offence of knowingly exporting goods designed for the UK internal market into the EU single market
>> A bespoke SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) treaty between the UK and EU
>> A labelling programme for goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
>> A cross-border compliance body treaty with the Irish Republic, in line with existing six cross-border structures
Further explaining how the body would work, the party said: “This will require some narrow additional devolution, and will allow for both an educational role by visiting manufacturers and hauliers in both jurisdictions, as well as checking the compliance of those exporting to or importing from the EU single market.
“It’d mean using the Belfast Agreement as a tool to fix the problem in respect to cross-border trade by, in essence, devolving the issue to Northern Ireland to deal with, with the buy-in of the UK and EU.”
The UUP leader Doug Beattie later elaborated on his earlier comments.
He said: “[We are] not interested in just complaining and pointing out the flaws of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“We want to find common sense solutions that’ll prevent it having a negative effect on the people of Northern Ireland.
“We were not responsible for the Protocol, but we want to put forward proposals that can remove the Irish Sea Border.
“There should be no new borders east/west or north/south and we believe this can be achieved if the will is there.
“Only by talking and trying to find solutions will we prevent the problems we currently face as a result of the NI Protocol.
“This refreshed paper is an attempt in good faith to offer a potential way forward.”
Commenting on Doug Beattie’s interview with the Irish News, TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Taking the interview at face value, it is hard to escape the conclusion that he doesn’t get, or worse still, accepts the constitutional change already wrought by the Union-dismantling Protocol.
“If, as appears, he is accepting a ‘regulatory border’ in the Irish Sea (something he previously criticised the DUP for in respect of October 2019) and concluding that only its operation and the Protocol’s ‘democratic deficit’ needs addressed, then the essence of the Protocol is being conceded – namely, that Northern Ireland should be in a foreign single market for goods and under a foreign customs code ruled by foreign laws.”
On the UUP cross-border compliance body proposal, he said: “As for the notion that the trashing of our East/West links are resolved by more North/Southery – I find that mind boggling.”
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said: “From day one of the Protocol, we’ve railed against it and argued for a practical solution such as mutual enforcement which respects the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK.
“The UUP proposals are more focused on getting a solution that suits Dublin rather than a solution which suits the Union.
“I don’t see the creation or more cross-border bodies as the answer to the Protocol.
“I see the binning of the Protocol as the answer.”
Tim Cairns, an ex-DUP SPAD, said: “The last thing we need is more bureaucracy and red tape and the very last thing we need, if you’re trying to deal with a threat to the union, is putting a place a body that further erodes sovereignty.
“From my perspective, and I think from any right thinking unionist’s perspective, having a cross-border body to try and solve any issues with the Protocol is just a non-starter.”
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