Northern Ireland: Unions ‘could be dislodged’ says Watt
Mark Francois, Chairman of the European Research Group, has savaged the bloc for causing “serious damage” to stability in Northern Ireland. Comparing the bloc to a “militant trade union”, the Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford hit out at the EU for the “highly officious” way in which they have interpreted the Northern Ireland Protocol. He claimed that the bloc’s approach to negotiations has “angered the Unionist community”.
Mr Francois called on the UK Government to act in order to “save the Good Friday Agreement itself from collapse”.
The agreement, signed in 1998, brought an end to the Troubles in Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed upon as part of the withdrawal agreement, set out to avoid a hard border in Ireland after the UK left the EU by Northern Ireland to remain within the EU’s single market for goods.
But the Protocol has faced heavy criticism because a border was effectively created between Great Britain and Northern Ireland down the Irish Sea, leading to delays, supermarket shortages and increased costs for businesses in Northern Ireland.
Johnson has been urged to act as the EU’s ‘militant trade union’ approach puts stability at risk
Mr Francois compared the EU to a ‘militant trade union’
As a result, there have been fears of a return to violence in the region, as Brexit has led to anger on both sides of the political divide.
Sinn Fein, a party closely associated with violence during the Troubles, appears set to become the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly at the elections taking place tomorrow.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Francois said: “Throughout what I call the whole ‘Battle for Brexit’ the EU argued repeatedly that they were determined to uphold the Good Friday Agreement – but their actions, or rather inactions, are now having precisely the opposite effect.
“The highly officious way in which they have interpreted the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, akin to a militant trade union ‘working to rule’ has so angered the Unionist community, that political stability in Northern Ireland is now being seriously damaged.
Mr Francois called on the Government to act in order to ‘save the Good Friday Agreement’
The UK has been locked in talks with the EU over the Protocol since October 2021
“Even the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Lord Trimble, who was one of the key architects of the original Good Friday Agreement, is now warning that EU inaction over the Protocol could undermine the GFA itself.
“The Good Friday Agreement is based, fundamentally, on the principle of cross-community consent and if either community withdraws that consent, the Agreement is doomed to fail.
“We have already seen the portents of this, with the collapse of the devolved Government of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Executive, over the lack of progress on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“If, ultimately, the EU will not listen to reason, then the UK Government may have to contemplate legislating unilaterally, which they now have the legal ability to do, in order to save the Good Friday Agreement itself from collapse.
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“In Michel Barnier’s famous phrase, ‘the clock is now ticking’ to save the Good Friday Agreement, without which we could see a return to violence in Northern Ireland, which absolutely no one wants to see.”
The UK and the EU have been locked in negotiations over the issue since October 2021.
But it was recently claimed that the UK Government plans to use this month’s Queen’s Speech to threaten to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Plans are reportedly being drawn up to give UK ministers the power to unilaterally remove key parts of the agreement signed with Brussels in 2019.
The Government reportedly plans to use this month’s Queen’s Speech to threaten to scrap the Protocol
Government sources told LBC that the planned legislation would grant ministers the power to suspend checks on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is one of the key issues with the Protocol.
While the triggering of Article 16 would still require checks on some goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the new plans would reportedly be even more far-reaching.
The legislation would bypass Article 16, replacing it with new UK legislation.