Sinéad McLaughlin: "Let's get on and promote our opportunities from the Protocol to create well paid jobs and develop a strong cluster of businesses in Derry."
“The Protocol is in place for a reason,” states Foyle MLA, Sinéad McLaughlin.
The SDLP member who will be standing to retain her seat in May's Assembly election, insisted that people should look no further than the British Parliament as to why the Protocol is there.
Namely because its pursuit of a hard Brexit that meant no UK membership of the Single Market or the Customs Union, a border was therefore inevitable.
However, the location of said border, in the Irish Sea, angered the unionist parties in the North who felt the land border between the North and the Republic was the right place – much to the consternation of nationalists.
The business community spoke out against a land border as well with the Derry Chamber of Commerce saying 80 per cent of its members backed the Protocol with export/import figures between the North and the Republic showing how the local economy has received a boost by keeping the frontier open.
Following last week's attempt in the the Appeal Court in Belfast to remove the Protocol, the appellants – TUV leader Jim Allister, former Labour MP Kate Hoey and former Brexit Part MEP Ben Habib – are set to continue the fight, as confirmed by Habib in The Derry News earlier this week, in the Supreme Court in London.
The date for the hearing has yet to be set but given – with the European Court no longer an option in this post-Brexit era – the Supreme Court is the last stop for the anti-Protocol bus, the future of the Irish Sea border that was imposed when Brexit began will finally be determined.
Much constitutional wrangling both in court and in the media has been played out – and then some – but as McLaughlin states, the Protocol is here for the immediate future and urged all who have a stake in the North to “get on and promote our opportunities from the Protocol to create well paid jobs and develop a strong cluster of businesses in Derry”.
She said: “It is no surprise that the legal case fell. We all know that Parliament can revoke or amend previous laws – no Parliament can bind its successor.
“We can all agree that the Protocol needs to be applied in ways that minimise the bureaucracy and barriers for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And it needs to be reformed to enable that.
“But we have to always remember that the Protocol is in place for a reason.
“The British Parliament decided to implement a harsh Brexit, leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union.
“It didn't need to do that. But once it decided on that, a border between Britain and the European Union had to be put in place somewhere.
“Given the character of the border within Ireland – the hundreds of back roads, a border running along the middle of roads, the way it splits properties in two, and not to mention the social and political impact of an enforced border – it is obvious that a controlled border here is unacceptable and unrealistic.
“So the Protocol or another agreement that has the same effect was both inevitable and unavoidable.
“Now that we have the Protocol, let's make the best of it.
“The Protocol provides opportunities for our businesses, as the Derry Chamber survey indicates, as well as incentives for inward investment.
“So let's get on and promote our opportunities from the Protocol to create well paid jobs and develop a strong cluster of businesses in Derry that can take advantage of that, for example in the life sciences.
“Whatever perspective political parties have, there is no excuse to collapse the Executive.
“We have the cost of living emergency to tackle, jobs to create and a health service to reform.
“Our energies must be on resolving problems, not making them worse."
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