Arlene Foster said the protocol has driven “a coach and horses” through the Act of Union following the change in trading between Northern Ireland and Britain since the start of 2021.
“Fundamental to the Act of Union is unfettered trade throughout the UK,” said Foster , the leader of the DUP. “At the core of the Belfast [Good Friday] agreement was the principle of consent, yet the Northern Ireland protocol has driven a coach and horses through both the Act of Union and the Belfast agreement.”
‘Legal action is ill-judged’, says SDLP’s Eastwood
Unionists from across the UK are joining for judicial review proceedings unless alternative arrangements are put in place that unionists consent to, with Foster being backed by the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds, the party’s leader at Westminster Jeffrey Donaldson and chief whip, Sammy Wilson – who are all being named parties in the proceedings.
“The DUP’s legal action against the Ireland Protocol is ill-judged and will only further entrench the febrile political environment as well as creating further uncertainty for people and businesses,” said leader of the nationalist SDLP Colum Eastwood.
“There will be few with sympathy for the argument that the protocol, which prevents a hard border in Ireland and guarantees dual market access for local businesses, breaches the Good Friday Agreement.”
E-petition triggers Westminster debate
The DUP has vowed to overturn the protocol and Westminster will tomorrow (Monday) debate a motion triggered by the party’s e-petition for the government to act and replace the “flawed and deeply damaging” protocol by triggering article 16 of the Brexit deal.
“There is no question of the public anger towards the Protocol,” said Foster. “The petition demonstrated that.
“Brussels and London must work for a permanent solution. Temporary measures will not work.
“The Protocol is flawed and has ruptured the east-west strand of the Belfast Agreement.”
More than 140,000 have signed the petition and Foster said the EU and the UK government “must recognise that to press on with the protocol with every single unionist party opposed to it will lead to failure.
“Every agreement involving Northern Ireland has always required the consent of all sides. Consensus has been our watchword.”
Taoiseach urges DUP to ‘dial down rhetoric’
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the DUP’s stance on the protocol was “disappointing”, and has urged the party to “dial down the rhetoric” with tensions in Northern Ireland rising since the start of the year.
Martin called on unionists to work towards “a practical resolution to any difficulties within the structure of the Withdrawal Agreement which followed Brexit”, adding: “A lot of work was done over several years on this, and it’s not even two months since January… I think the most effective way to deal with the questions is within the Agreement.”
He continued: “As I said before, we need to dial down the rhetoric …That type of politics is no good for anyone in my opinion. We all have an obligation to dial it down, to come together to discuss these questions… we have to put politics aside and deal with the issues within an economic, social and practical context.”
Campaign group Leave.EU tweeted: “It’s time for Boris to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol and put an end to the EU’s sick plot to carve up the United Kingdom!”
The DUP campaigned for the UK to leave the EU In the 2016 EU referendum, however 56% of Northern Ireland voters wanted to remain.