Edwin Potts, the new leader of Northern Ireland’s largest political party, accused the European Union on Sunday of treating the region as a political “game”, as tensions continued between the United Kingdom and Brussels over the implementation of post-Brexit trade rules.
Potts, from has become The DUP leader said on Thursday that while in the past the European Commission had devoted its “heart and soul” to maintaining peace within the region, the “current batch” of commissioners has shown little interest in the Northern Ireland peace process. .
The DUP leader swept into power promising to take a tougher stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed as part of the 2019 treaty that secured Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. It is designed to avoid the land borders of the island of Ireland.
“I [is] trying to punish the UK and as a result Northern Ireland is being used as a game,” he told the BBC Andrew Mar Show. “We are citizens of the UK, we have been citizens of the European Union and we deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else.”
Potts, predecessor Arlene Fostr was excluded in part because it was seen as not being strict enough about the protocol, and said the UK government would have “reasons” to invoke a provision, known as Article 16, to suspend part of the agreement as “economic and societal harm” that “was a clear cause” very “.
Article 16 allows either side to suspend parts of the agreement and can be triggered if the EU or the UK believe the protocol causes “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
The DUP leader said the protocol, which requires the region to follow EU customs rules for goods, and which require goods to be moved between Great Britain to Northern Ireland for examination, was “extremely harmful” and should be “thrown out”.
“We have violence on our streets in Northern Ireland that hasn’t been the case for years and that’s against the backdrop of this protocol,” he said, adding that the EU was “playing fast and loosely”.
Companies within the region have complained about the high costs and extra paperwork that comes with importing and exporting. The area is also facing high costs For one time medicines the grace period for this sector expires in October.
Earlier this month, on his first official visit to Northern Ireland, Lord David Frost, the British government’s first minister on Brexit, met with business and community members in Northern Ireland and discussed issues ranging from the complexity of paperwork to disruption of supply chains.
After the meeting, Frost warned that protocol “present big challenges تحديات‘, and argued that quick solutions were needed to ‘reduce disruption to the daily lives of people in Northern Ireland’.
Responding to Potts’ criticism, Maros Sivkovic, the commission’s vice chair, said he was “committed” to the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 ended 30 years of violent sectarian conflict. “We are working really closely to make sure the protocol turns into an opportunity,” he told the BBC.
Sefcovic, who is in charge of relations with Britain in the European Union, said Brussels had been “working very hard” to ensure the smooth implementation of the protocol, adding that more cooperation was needed from the UK.
Unionists argue that the protocol violated the terms of the peace agreement by changing Northern Ireland’s status within the United Kingdom, which was enshrined in the GFA.
He said the EU was working hard to resolve triggers related to the protocol that range from barriers to movement of guide dogs between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to issues around tariffs on steel, value-added tax on used cars and a more general problem regarding food safety checks.
However, Sefkovic said: “On the UK side, we still don’t have the basic answers.”
The UK government said on Sunday it remained focused on addressing the “significant challenges” created by the protocol.
Additional reporting by Javier Espinosa in Brussels