UUP ‘warned EU and UK of dangers but nothing was done’

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has said the EU’s refusal to compromise over the Northern Ireland Protocol has made it inevitable that the UK Government will have to act unilaterally to change the post-Brexit agreement.

By Henry McDonald
Friday, 13th May 2022, 7:59 pm

Mr Beattie welcomed the Government’s apparent move to go it alone and protect the Province within the UK internal market.

“It is deeply regretful that we have come to this point, but the stand-off cannot continue, the EU needs to change its mandate. If they are in agreement that the landing zone is removing checks on goods which are coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain and staying here, then why have they not reached a break-through yet?” Mr Beattie said.

The UUP leader said the political crisis at Stormont on Friday was avoidable if the UK and EU had agreed to a deal to change the Protocol ahead of the election.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

UUP leader Doug Beattie

“We warned both the EU and the UK Government that if action wasn’t taken before the election, what would come after might be unsalvageable. We did so last year and again this year in London and Brussels. Nothing was done. The people of Northern Ireland are now faced with no functioning government for an unknown period in the midst of a cost of living crisis and unprecedented pressures on our health service.”

He continued: “Throughout this process we have acknowledged the EU’s right to protect its single market, but our foremost concern is that of Northern Ireland.

“We have been clear that an internal border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom is totally unacceptable.

“We have produced solutions that could have seen this resolved before now and in a way that didn’t require unilateral action. They (the EU and UK) should have got on with it before now.“

Mr Beattie stressed the Protocol and the difficulties it is creating for so many businesses in Northern Ireland is “not simply a unionist concern” as it affects everyone in the Province.

Meanwhile, Paymaster General Michael Ellis has become the latest Cabinet Minister to signal that the UK Government is preparing to unilaterally make “significant changes” to the Protocol.

In a speech in Brussels, Mr Ellis said it was “hugely disappointing” that the EU insists it will never change its position and because of that the UK will “have to take action.”