Northern Ireland: Loyalist discusses possibility of conflict
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The new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) warned MPs in yesterday’s debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol the UK-EU agreement would be “socially disruptive, economically ruinous and politically disastrous” for the province of Ulster. Donaldson, who replaced Edwin Poots in the DUP’s second leadership contest of 2021 on June 30, said the first requirement for Ulster was to ensure there are no checks on any goods traded between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
However, goods checked under rules established before the UK departed from the European Union, including on livestock, are excluded from Donaldson’s test.
The DUP leader added the Protocol threatened to violate the sixth article of the Act of Union in 1800.
He argued that under legislation introduced by Westminster to admit Ireland into the United Kingdom, “everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled to the same privileges and to be on the same footing as to goods in either country and in respect to trade within the United Kingdom.”
The MP for Lagan Valley then said it was “simply not acceptable that consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland are told that they must purchase certain goods from the EU and not from Great Britain.”
But Donaldson, echoing the concerns of many Ulster Unionists in last month’s protest against the Protocol and at the recent July Twelfth celebrations, insisted there cannot be a border erected down the Irish Sea.
Other stages of Donaldson’s test include: giving citizens in Northern Ireland “a say” on regulations that affect the province, ensuring no regulatory barriers with Britain unless agreed to by Stormont and preserving “the letter and the spirit” of the Good Friday Agreement.
In regard to the Belfast Agreement, the DUP leader said this “requires in advance the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland for any diminution in its status as part of the United Kingdom”.
“To reduce the constitutional status to our having a say in the final step of leaving the United Kingdom would mean that, in effect, it is no meaningful guarantee at all”, claimed Donaldson.
The DUP leader added: “There is no pragmatic or practical reason why arrangements cannot be put in place which can satisfy these tests and prove no meaningful threat to the integrity of the EU Single Market.”
Simon Hoare, the ex-Remainer who is now Conservative chair of the Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee, replied by saying, “I have yet to be persuaded that anybody, in their hearts of hearts, ever defines their sense of belonging or loyalty to invisible trading arrangements”.
But Owen Paterson, formerly Northern Ireland Secretary under David Cameron, warned that the “sense of bewilderment is turning to anger”.
And Paterson, who abstained from voting in favour of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal over issues in Ulster, added: “We should not overrule the result of the EU referendum and adopt a whole lot of EU law just to sort out a tiny problem on the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border.”
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“Mutual enforcement is the way ahead,” Paterson said.
However, a petition created by the former DUP leader, Arlene Foster, earlier this year has called on the Government to “remove any impediment or barrier to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom”.
The petition has obtained more than 144,000 signatures, and more than half of those came from voters in Northern Ireland.
Support for scrapping the Protocol is particularly strong in Ulster’s most loyalist areas.
In Lagan Valley, Donaldson’s own constituency, more than five percent of all voters expressed their unease at the Protocol by signing Foster’s petition.
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