Willie Hay blames ‘EU intransigence’ for ‘political instability’ in the north

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Willie Hay has blamed ‘European Union intransigence’ for ‘political instability’ in the north.

The former Stormont Speaker was speaking in the British House of Lords during a debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

"We are debating this Bill against a backdrop of political instability in Northern Ireland, due in no small part to the EU’s intransigence over the NI protocol and, regrettably, an inability, so far, to find a workable solution to the issue,” he said.

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The former Derry mayor said that he and his colleagues had pointed out ‘from the beginning’ that the Protocol ‘simply would not work and would be a direct threat to the long-term political and economic stability of Northern Ireland’.

Willie HayWillie Hay
Willie Hay

“The NI protocol is not only an economic barrier in terms of trade in parts of this sovereign nation; it is a barrier to consensus and devolved government in NI.

"As a party, we are committed devolutionists and I assure the House that we want to see the Stormont institutions up and running. The sooner this issue is dealt with, the sooner an Executive can get back and the Assembly can function properly once more,” he said.

He went on to claim that the first priority of the Westminster parliament must be the ‘protection and integrity’ of the UK.

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He said the Bill, which aims to give the British government the power to unilaterally override elements of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement it signed with the EU, ‘offers a framework to deal with the real problems that the protocol has created in NI for some time’.

"If enacted, the Bill has the potential to provide a solution that will restore the rights of the people of NI, as British citizens, to trade freely with the rest of this nation under Article 6 of the Act of Union.

“The Bill before us is also essential to protect the integrity of the UK market and the constitutional integrity of this nation. Such uncertainty and disruption are unnecessary.

"They are problematic in the long term and potentially bring into question the very future of the institutions that so many claim they understand, respect and hold dear,” he said.

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The senior DUP figure, who is known as Lord Hay of Ballyore, urged British peers not to radically alter the Bill.

“In this Bill, I believe, we have a workable solution available to us to address the serious issues now. Fundamentally, the Bill is about addressing the consensus that has created political instability in NI.

"To dismiss the Bill before your Lordships’ House or to change it drastically would be to dismiss the consensus that formed the foundations for a durable Government in NI. By supporting the Bill, we will go some way to ensuring that NI’s place in the United Kingdom is finally restored. We will also go some way to protecting the delicate politics of consensus in NI.

“I believe that the Bill is the only route to restoring constitutional balance as well as eliminating the trade barriers created by the protocol, and the only path to stable and sustainable government in NI.

"Much of what will happen in the coming period in NI will be shaped by the attitudes and decisions taken by this House and the other place. We are supporting the Bill,” said the cross-bencher.