Darren Grimes: Do we need to put an end to the Northern Ireland Protocol?

This farce cannot be allowed to happen

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The scenes of women and children crossing the Ukrainian border to seek a new life as a refugee, as their male loved ones kiss them goodbye to head back into their country to defend it from Russian tyranny, have been ones that have moved many of us. The right of Ukraine to self-determination, to join whatever club it wants and to face Westwards is one most of us reckon is worth defending. That’s why our nation was the first to train up Ukrainian troops and to send equipment, with Next generation Light Anti-tank Weapons, made in Belfast and used by Ukrainians who say "God Save The Queen" upon firing them at Russian forces, we ought to be immensely proud of the way in which we've stepped up to defend freedom.

It’s reminded me though that there is one constituent part of our United Kingdom that finds itself stripped of its right to self-determination. Of its right to be British. Of its right to unfettered trade with Great Britain, by far its biggest trading partner. Of its right to have the same rules and regulations as the rest of the United Kingdom and its right to experience the benefits of Brexit that the rest of our country will enjoy.

That’s right, folks, I was reminded of Northern Ireland and the dreaded Northern Ireland Protocol. Can you imagine if Scotland voted for independence and an independent Scotland told England that we had to follow EU rules to avoid a border with Scotland? We’d rightly be furious. Its an emotion felt by many Unionists in Northern Ireland today. There’s a sense of bitter betrayal by those in Westminster.

It’s as simple as this folks, a constituent part of the UK cannot remain a client state of Brussels. It’s patently absurd that goods passing from England, Wales or Scotland are subject to checks when crossing to Northern Ireland. And guess what? It’s all policed by the European Court of Justice! A preposterous proposal that cannot continue.

The devolved administration in Northern Ireland has collapsed over Unionist demands to scrap the Protocol and government sources are reportedly starting to grow anxious about striking a deal with the EU over the Protocol before the May 5 elections take place in Northern Ireland.

Now folks, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been somewhat busy dealing with the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the Government simply cannot forget about Northern Ireland. I think the time has passed since the Government ought to have triggered Article 16 and brought an end to Northern Ireland’s suffering under the Protocol.

To give you an idea of the havoc this Protocol has caused, The Belfast Telegraph’s Sam McBride reports that a month ago a Northern Irish lorry carrying New Zealand and Australian lamb was stopped at the Irish sea border in Belfast Harbour, the frozen food that was supposed to be used by a Northern Ireland manufacturer and made into ready-meals, instead sat there for five days before heading back to Britain, obviously meaning Northern Ireland missed out.

There’s all of a sudden a hardening at the border that no official wants to own up to and admit has been happening, but it obviously disadvantages Northern Ireland when producers and exporters reckon they simply cannot do business with them because of these ever-evolving rules and an ever hardening border down the Irish sea. What consent does this have from Unionism in Northern Ireland?

This is going to mean a hit to Northern Ireland jobs, its economy and its consumers. What makes it all the more extraordinary is that the British Government seemed to be none the wiser that it’s happening. Ministers in Northern Ireland are also none the wiser. It could be the case that civil servants have been taking instruction from Brussels when it comes to enforcement of ever-changing rules around the governance of this Protocol.

This farce cannot be allowed to happen. Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is a safeguarding mechanism that can be used if the Protocol leads to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade”, I think it’s hard to argue that now isn’t the time to utilise this article and to unshackle Northern Ireland from this regulatory quagmire.

Watch Real Britain with Darren Grimes weekends from 2pm only on GB News.