Brexit warning: Boris Johnson ‘now recognises the disaster he has made’ with protocol

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The Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Steve Aiken said the six months on from the expiration of the Brexit transition period, it’s obvious even the Prime Minister’s plan for the Six Counties is doomed to fail. Mr Aiken, chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly finance committee and a former UUP leader, hit out at Mr Johnson’s approach to Brexit talks with the EU.

Under his Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Johnson agreed with Brussels to put a trade border down the Irish Sea and have checks on goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, Mr Aiken argued, was evidence of Mr Johnson’s stark lack of regard for communities across the water.

He described himself as “no friend of Boris Johnson” and called for the measures to be scrapped immediately.

He told “I think Boris Johnson’s approach by bringing in the Northern Ireland Protocol and putting a border in the middle of the Irish Sea has been absolutely disastrous.

“And I think he even now recognises the disaster that he has made of it, and more importantly, the impact it’s had on the overall union, the union we have of all the United Kingdom.”

“I don’t even think Boris Johnson or the EU or anybody else were remotely interested in Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland was just a bargaining chip in the discussions that were going on towards getting a comprehensive trade deal between the United Kingdom and the EU.

“I don’t really think anyone has paid any attention to Northern Ireland at all and anybody who says that they have I think is very badly misinformed.”

The protocol is a key part of the Brexit deal signed by London and Brussels.

It aims to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The Government is embroiled in a bitter spat with the EU over the rollout of the controversial measures laid out in the deal.

The bloc has accused Britain of failing to live up to “very clear obligations” which Mr Johnson signed up to under the protocol to his Brexit deal.

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Bosses in Brussels are angry that control are border posts are not being performed and EU officials are not being given access to data on imports in line with the deal.

The Government has argued that while it did sign up to the measures, it did not foresee how disruptive they would be in practice.

Unionists and loyalist communities are particularly fearful of the impact the trade border and checks will have on their place in the UK.

Demonstrations have been taking place in recent weeks to urge politicians to scrap the protocol.

Mr Aiken, who represents the South Antrim constituency, explained: “There are protests every single day.

“And it just so happens that the media only report the ones where they are
violence or particular issues at.

“There are people protesting all over the place, it’s not just one [protest] and there is a massive amount of disquiet across all of Northern Ireland, not just among Unionist and loyalist communities, over the impact of the protocol.”

He added: “I don’t need to be told about it, I can see them when I look out my front door.”

On Friday several hundred people turned out at the Square in Newtownards, Co Dow, to protest against the protocol.

The rally was organised by leading Brexiteers Baroness Hoey and ex-MEP Ben Habib.

Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib told the crowd that the EU and the Irish Government were the “real villains” in the post-Brexit row.

He said that “they have falsified and misrepresented entirely what the customs border on the island of Ireland would be.”

He added: “But I’m afraid that those to whom you have given your allegiance, the Westminster Government, they are the ones who have really forsaken you because they should have stood up to that false narrative.”

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