Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson has told MPs that his party will not support any overhaul of the Northern Ireland protocol unless it removes all post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Brexit minister David Frost will next week outline Britain’s proposals for changing the way the protocol is implemented. But speaking during a Commons debate on the protocol on Thursday, Sir Jeffrey set out seven tests any arrangement would have to pass.
He said it must respect the 1800 Act of Union which says that all parts of the United Kingdom are entitled to the same privileges when it comes to trade; there should be no diversion of trade away from Great Britain to the Republic; there should be no border in the Irish Sea; the people of Northern Ireland must have a say in making the laws that govern them; there must be no checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in either direction; any new regulatory barriers must be approved at Stormont; and the consent of the people in the North must be secured in advance of any new arrangement coming into place.
Sir Jeffrey later clarified that sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks that were in place before Brexit could continue.
“There is no practical or pragmatic reason why arrangements cannot be put in place that satisfy those tests and prove no meaningful threat to the integrity of the EU single market. We require that Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market is restored and we expect that the government will take steps to do that in line with the previous commitments that they have given, from the prime minister down,” he said.
Sir Jeffrey’s tests would require the effective dismantling of the protocol, which the British government has promised to uphold even though it is demanding changes to how it is implemented.
The SDLP’s Clare Hanna said the protocol was nobody’s first choice but it was the consequence of the form of Brexit pursued by the Conservatives with the DUP’s support.
“In all the discussion about consent, it is also important to reiterate that the Brexit that many who have spoken on this motion seek, has never been consented to by people in Northern Ireland. Our constitutional status is a matter for people here, by referendum, and it is a dangerous conspiracy theory to pretend that that is being changed over their heads,” she said.