Responding to the Prime Minister`s remarks in the House of Commons describing disruption to trade across the Irish Sea Border as ‘teething problems’, Ulster Unionist leader, Steve Aiken OBE MLA, said:
“Remarks today by the Prime Minister and Michael Gove that the growing trade, economic and societal debacle that is the Northern Ireland Protocol is just ‘teething problems’, stretched incredulity to the limit.
“MLAs are being inundated with issues ranging from horticulture, animal welfare to shortages of food products, coupled with the rising difficulties of getting goods delivered to us from within our own country. This is not a minor administrative issue – it just shows how fundamentally and structurally flawed the Protocol is.
“That we are somehow to be placated by changing VAT rules, which none of us have seen anyhow, just shows how divorced this Tory Government is from the Union it purports to support. They should be setting in place derogations on all aspects of the Protocol for at least 12 months, and then set about urgent negotiations with the EU to remove the ridiculous and unnecessary burden that this very inequitable treaty has produced.
“The DUP are also culpable in this dreadful mess. If they had opposed Boris Johnson`s proposals for a regulatory border in the Irish Sea and border inspection posts on 2 October 2019, instead of welcoming them as ‘a serious and sensible way forward’ we wouldn`t be in this situation. They were blinded by the bright lights of London, instead of being focused on the detail of what Boris Johnson presented to them. Their short-term tactics have led to longer term damage when they should have been defending and strengthening the most important Union of all, that between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“When Ian Paisley bragged in December 2017 that ‘Leo Varadkar was done over by the EU, the UK and the DUP’ we warned against being taken for a ride by the DUP`s brashness. No amount of bombastic rhetoric from Ian Paisley can now cover up the DUP`s culpability in the damage that has been done.
“We now need to focus on getting practical solutions to undo the damage. It was only after the Ulster Unionist Party brought an amendment in the Assembly citing use of Article 16 that the DUP woke up to practical efforts to do so.”