MEPs 'listening' on Protocol at Stormont but minds on whether Truss’ Government can negotiate deal

Bernd Lange MEP, from Germany, was among the delegation. Credit: UTV

A group of influential Members of the European Parliament have spent the morning at Stormont to meet representatives of the main parties.

It’s the first time a group of MEPs from the trade committee have visited since the UK left the EU.

Bernd Lange MEP, from Germany, was among the delegation and after the meeting he said the group was in “listening mode” on concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Lange said: “We want to get the feeling about the concrete problems regarding the consequences of Brexit and how to deal with the Protocol so that the people on the ground get the benefit of the economic possibilities."

The delegation was greeted by the Speaker Alex Maskey and also met Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney, the DUP’s Diane Dodds, Sorcha Eastwood from the Alliance Party, Matthew O’Toole from the SDLP and the UUP’s Steve Aiken.

The meeting took place as uncertainty at Westminster turned into turmoil as speculation mounted about the future of Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor. 

Within an hour of the meeting ending, Mr Kwarteng had been sacked by the Prime Minister Liz Truss following days of economic uncertainty after the government’s mini-budget.

Kwasi Kwarteng.

While the discussion at Stormont was a chance for all parties to again explain their concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol to MEPs, inevitably minds were turning to the chaos in Westminster with questions being asked about what the impact of a change in Chancellor and damaged Prime Minister might have on the current negotiations between the UK and EU.

Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney MLA said: “Will the disfunction and the chaos of this particular British administration, which is so characteristic of the British administrations that got us into the middle of this mess in the first place, (whether it) is going to prohibit the ability to seize the opportunity, develop the landing zones, create the space for agreement."

DUP Diane Dodds MLA said she again told the MEPs that unionists did not support the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

On the unfolding drama at Westminster she said: “Liz Truss in her first Prime Minister’s questions actually said she would like a negotiated solution, but that negotiated solution had to encompass all of the elements of the Protocol Bill.  So the government has a choice.”

Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney and DUP MLA Diane Dodds.

Liz Truss has since appointed Jeremy Hunt to replace Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor. 

In a press conference she has also said she has decided to keep the corporation tax increase planned by the previous government. 

It is the significant u-turn on Ms Truss’ economic policies which had been expected and demanded by Conservative MPs to calm markets.