NI Protocol is ‘first real test’ for Edwin Poots says Derry MP Colum Eastwood
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has called on the new DUP Leader to support the sensible solution being offered on the Northern Ireland protocol that ‘would automatically remove 80% of checks overnight’.
Mr Eastwood was speaking after Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič said that the EU were willing to sign up to a Swiss-style agreement with the UK, aligning standards and removing checks. Mr Poots rejected this however, saying it only offered a ‘temporary’ solution - despite, Mr Eastwood said, the fact that a similar solution has been operating for 12 years with Switzerland and the EU.
“The European Commission is now publicly offering the sensible solution of a veterinary agreement, By describing this solution as temporary, Edwin Poots is either ill-informed or he is deliberately ignoring the solution in front of him. This offer on the Protocol is the first key test for the new DUP leadership.
“This offer is now an opportunity to finally resolve the issues around the protocol and allow us all to get back to the real issues that people in Northern Ireland need us to focus on. The truth is that the real priority for people is not customs checks in the Irish Sea, it is the constant crisis of hospital waiting lists,” he claimed.
Writing in the News Letter at the weekend, DUP Leader Edwin Poots said: “The damage of the Northern Ireland Protocol simply cannot be ignored. The Protocol not only damages our economy but has increased community tensions.”
He added: “The economic barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain harm every business and every consumer. This should not just be of concern to unionists, but unfortunately some who championed the Protocol’s ‘rigorous implementation’ were happy to drive a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
“The DUP will not be found wanting in efforts to remove the Protocol, but it is through a joined-up approach, we can achieve our aims more effectively. I have already had discussions across the broader unionist community and will work with business leaders to highlight its impact on every single member of our society.
“The Irish Government too have a role to play. Having campaigned for the Protocol, they have a responsibility to help undo its damage. As a Minister who brought forward cross-border children’s heart surgery I have no objection to practical co-operation. However, there must be a recognition of the East-West ties which bind Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom. It is only when that totality of relationships is properly respected that we will make progress.
“Northern Ireland should not have been used as a bargaining chip to punish the UK for leaving the European Union. Similarly, devolved government in Northern Ireland should not be used as a bargaining chip. Progress can and must be made here but threatening devolution is not a victimless crime. It is the most vulnerable who suffer when decisions are not taken.”