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20/10/2021

Eastwood issues "whose side are you on?" Protocol challenge to DUP

Foyle MP backs EU proposals as reflecting people's concerns not Tory Government fantasy red lines

Eastwood issues "whose side are you on?" Protocol challenge to DUP

SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said: "I would encourage political leaders, and particularly the leaders of unionism, to reflect on the very serious efforts made by the European Commission"

Foyle MP, Colum Eastwood, has challenged the DUP to “decide if they’re on the side of people and businesses here or in the pocket of Boris Johnson”, following proposals made by the European Commission regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Commission Vice-President, Maroš Šefčovič, outlined new proposals dealing with agri-food goods, customs, movement of medicines and engagement with Northern Ireland stakeholders.

The key points are as follows:

•  Agri-foods – there would be an 80 per cent reduction on spot-checks, one all-encompassing certificate for multiple goods being brought over from Britain instead of potentially up to 100 per lorry load. Chilled meat products from Britain would be downgraded from their current 'high-risk' status.

•  Customs – Volume of paperwork needed to move goods from Britain to Northern Ireland would be halved. No customs duty will be levied at products classed as 'not at risk'. Companies sending out products to Northern Ireland will only need to produce an invoice, rather than comprehensive EU customs code data sets.

•  Medicines – Trade of medicines between Britain and Northern Ireland to continue and ensure British pharmaceutical companies need not have to set up bases in the north of Ireland. Those companies can continue to act as a hub in the supply of generic medicines to the north.

•  Stakeholders – Communication exchange between Northern Irish politicians, businesses and other stakeholders with the EU to improve to ensure the Protocol is more transparent. Structured groups to be set up to provide a discussion forum on key issues of the Protocol. Stakeholders would be invited to some key EU/UK Protocol Committee meetings.

SDLP leader Mr Eastwood said the Commission's proposals aimed at resolving the challenges associated with the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol represent a fair accommodation and has urged political leaders to embrace them.

He also added that the package of measures delivers the changes that businesses in Northern Ireland have asked for and has called on political unionism to detach itself from unreachable demands set by Brexiteers in London.

He said: “The proposals presented by the European Commission today are significant, they go further than many expected and clearly demonstrate that European leaders are stretching themselves in the interests of people and businesses in Northern Ireland.

“I welcome the proposals made by Maroš Šefčovič because they show that he has been listening to the concerns of people in the North, not the fantasy red lines drawn by the British Government.

“I would encourage political leaders, and particularly the leaders of unionism, to reflect on the very serious efforts made by the European Commission to ease the challenges with trade flows between Northern Ireland and Britain as well as addressing their concerns about democratic deficits.

“The DUP, in particular, need to decide if they’re on the side of people and businesses here or in the pocket of Boris Johnson.

“No one, save perhaps for Jim Allister, has raised the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice as an issue because its remit is so confined to the operation of European Internal Market law that it poses no threat to prosperity here.

“Jeopardising our access to the European Single Market on the basis of nativist-fuelled rhetoric about European courts would be a serious mistake.

“There is now a clear landing zone that will address the Protocol challenges, allow us to maximise the opportunities and, most importantly, expend political energy dealing with the crisis in our health service, our crumbling schools estate and managing the pandemic. We need to grasp that opportunity.”

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