The latest EU proposal to address problems of post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland provides a “sensible solution” and a bespoke arrangement which can provide a way forward, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the Sinn Féin vice president said the announcement has been “warmly welcomed” by the business community in Northern Ireland, as she called for the plan to be “tied down” to give certainty to those affected.
The European Commission has laid out measures to cut 80% of regulatory checks and dramatically cut customs processes on the movement of goods, especially food and farming produce, between Britain and the island of Ireland.
The British government welcomed the announcement last night, signalling that it wants “intensive talks” to follow the EU’s proposals.
Ms O’Neill said those who are calling for the protocol to be “binned” should bear in mind that it is an international treaty.
She branded the Democratic Unionist Party an “outlier” on the issue of Brexit, and claimed the party has internal issues, as well as a declining popularity in the polls.
“I am not convinced they have the best interests of the public at heart,” Ms O’Neill said.
“Their position is more about internal challenges … rather than a considered way forward to maintain protections and provide certainty and stability.”
As she welcomed the EU proposal, Ms O’Neill said it demonstrates that they provided practical solutions to issues raised by the local business community.
She also stated that the British government “keeps moving goalposts” in their demand to remove the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing the protocol.
“Northern Ireland is caught up in a battle between the British government and the EU,” Ms O’Neill said.
“It is not good enough and not acceptable for the economy or local businesses.”
SDLP MP for Belfast South Claire Hanna has said she believes the new proposal from the EU would offer a “huge amount of solution” and should be pursued in good faith.
On RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Hanna said it is a worry that some unionist parties in the UK government may wish to keep it “on a low boil” until the assembly election and use it for an electoral purpose.
“That would be really negative for Northern Ireland,” she said.
“There is an element in the UK government that are keen to use the protocol as a mine for grievance as a front to which they can keep battling with EU.”