On Tuesday Sir Jeffrey had briefed the foreign press corps in London on the DUP’s Protocol position, telling them that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill now sitting with Parliament has led the EU’s Maros Sefcovic to threaten “retaliation”: namely, “to prevent Northern Ireland businesses having access to their single market”.
Mr Donaldson had said this “suggests they are preparing to create a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland”.
And in the Commons today he repeated this refrain, saying: “The EU has threatened to remove access for Northern Ireland businesses to their Single Market.
“And to police this, they would have to create a hard border on the island of Ireland – that’s the only consequence of their actions.
“Does the Secretary of State agree with me that such a threat from the EU indicates that far from wanting to protect the Good Friday Agreement, and peace and stability in Northern Ireland, they simply want to punish Northern Ireland businesses because the UK government wants to protect the UK internal market?”
Brandon Lewis replied that this was an “important point” adding “we’ll never be looking at any sort of infrastructure, there cannot be a hard border on the island of Ireland in the same way there should not be a hard border between east and west”.
Ms Hanna was unimpressed, scoffing “what?”, shaking her head and saying “wow” in reaction to Sir Jeffrey’s words.
She had spoken earlier in the debate, saying the upcoming Protocol bill is akin to “a demolition derby” of the principles inherent in the Good Friday Agreement.
She asked what legal advice he had received regarding the bill’s compatibility with the 1998 deal, but Mr Lewis’ response did not address this.
More to follow.