DUP urges PM to restore NI ability to trade freely with rest of UK

Brexit Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The DUP has urged the Prime Minister to restore Northern Ireland’s ability to trade freely with the rest of the UK.

Unionists lambasted the “nonsense” of arrangements which they said have seen deliveries from Great Britain tampered with and delayed, and disrupted supply chains for Belfast businesses.

Democratic Unionists have vowed to overturn the Northern Ireland Protocol which keeps the country within the EU’s regulatory framework and has created extra red tape.

Senior MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “This is the UK internal market, the difficulties are within that market.

“It is the responsibility of the UK Government to act and that is why we are calling on them to use their powers under the protocol to take the necessary action through Article 16 to resolve the diversion of trade, the disruption in trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and to restore the citizenship rights of the people of Northern Ireland to trade freely with the rest of the UK, a freedom they have enjoyed for 200 years.

“In this, the centenary year of Northern Ireland, we expect the Government and the Prime Minister to act to address and resolve these issues and to replace the protocol with arrangements that respect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.”

Unionists believe post-Brexit trading arrangements introducing bureaucracy on goods crossing the Irish Sea to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland jeopardises their citizenship rights as part of the UK.

Nationalists acknowledge problems with trade, but have urged their counterparts to dial down the rhetoric and help work to overcome the glitches.

The DUP has launched a two-pronged political and legal campaign of opposition to the protocol.

Its e-petition on the matter was debated by a committee of MPs at Westminster on Monday.

Sir Jeffrey, the party’s leader at Westminster and MP for Lagan Valley, said Northern Irish businesses were experiencing “enormous difficulties” with their supply chains.

He added there was enormous strength of feeling about the issue.

He said a constituent had a birthday gift opened and delayed in transit from the rest of the UK.

“It is nonsense and it has to be dealt with,” he added.

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman Simon Hoare addressed the debate.

He said the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could only work when nationalists and unionists were broadly on the same page.

He added: “We cannot just dismiss these concerns, they need to be addressed, but calling for the triggering of Article 16 or abandonment of the protocol is, I would suggest, naive and premature and hopefully not needed.”

Responding, Minister of State for Northern Ireland Robin Walker said work is "under way at pace" with the EU "with the shared objective of finding workable solutions on the ground".

"A meeting of the UK EU withdrawal agreement joint committee will be convened this Wednesday to provide the necessary political steer, and approval for this work," he said.

He said government will consider "all instruments at our disposal including invoking article 16 if necessary to protect the interests of the people of Northern Ireland and safeguard the effective movement of goods, people, services and capital throughout the United Kingdom".