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Ignoring the anti-Belfast Agreement reality of an Irish Sea border is self-serving hypocrisy – Aiken

Ulster Unionist Leader, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, said:

“The publication of the UK Internal Market Bill is a very poor attempt to repair the damage created by the badly drafted and discriminatory NI Protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement. With less than a few months to go, the fact that the people of Northern Ireland have no idea of the impact on businesses, the extra cost that may be imposed on consumers or the very real and significant challenges created by having to accept ECJ rulings over those of our own courts, should be galvanising all political parties in Northern Ireland to call on both the EU and the London Government to sort these problems out. We are in the mess we are today because of the monumental naivety of the UK Government and the intransigence of the EU.

“That a spectrum of those, including the Irish Government, are content to raise the spectre of a land border as anti-Belfast Agreement, whilst at the same time ignoring the anti-agreement reality of an Irish Sea Border, is nothing short of self-serving hypocrisy.  The UUP position has and continues to be that there should be no impediments to trade, North South, West and East, and above all, within our own nation – first and foremost we need a level playing field across the UK.

“The Internal Market Bill, for all the bluster and hype on all sides, does not address this fundamental issue.  The biggest commitment that can be made to the Belfast Agreement is to ensure that there are no barriers installed on these islands. That should be the focus of both EU and UK negotiators.

“Finally, there is the matter raised by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the potential breaking of an international treaty. The United Kingdom has a well-deserved reputation for its adherence to international law and precedent. Even though the NI Protocol and the Withdrawal Agreement are antithetical to the interests of Northern Ireland and in particular the Belfast Agreement, our Government should not be threatening to break international law to right a terrible wrong. Instead, no matter how politically naive our Government was in negotiating the Withdrawal Agreement, we should use every legal means possible to thwart the intent of a Northern Ireland Protocol which disrespects UK sovereignty, casts a fundamental principle of the Belfast Agreement to one side and wilfully ignores the wishes of Unionists in Northern Ireland. It`s not too late for the negotiators on both sides to acknowledge the reality of their past mistakes and change course.”  

“That the clamour of complaint comes from the EU, the Republic of Ireland and elements of the US legislature, whose adherence to international law, norms and precedence is at best sketchy, should not be used as an excuse by those in our Parliament who rightly point out the irony of the complainants’ remarks.”

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