Dr Steve Aiken OBE MLA UUP Finance and BREXIT spokesperson said:
“Despite the ongoing crisis in Belarus and the EU’s failure to get a grip on CoVID, President Ursula von der Leyen took the opportunity yesterday to demonstrate, yet again, that she is tone deaf to the plight of Northern Ireland.
“In her remarks that ‘It is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the European Union single market’ she is at best badly informed, or at worst, is willfully misrepresenting the impact of the EU’s failure to come to an acceptable agreement with the UK, and the people of Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, we are all stuck in the middle.
“To continue on the line that there is no alternative but for the Protocol to be “fully and effectively implemented” when the very clear evidence on increasing costs, potential disruption of medical supplies, and a host of other absurdities which affect everyone here, again shows that Northern Ireland is being used as a bargaining chip between Brussels and London. We have published our own proposals and mitigations and to make progress, we need partners with open minds who will work with us.
“We live here, nobody has more to gain from Northern Ireland succeeding and nobody has more to lose if it fails. That is why we are highlighting the current failings, not to be awkward, but because we want to improve the situation which we and our families have to face on a daily basis. We live in Northern Ireland, but under this Protocol we have no meaningful say in what happens here.
“If Ms von der Leyen is indeed serious about protecting the peace process then she really needs to engage with the party that helped write and implement the Belfast Agreement, and to listen to our concerns. Regrettably, after 145 days, the only interaction by the EU on the Protocol has been to trigger Art 16 over vaccines and to take the UK to court; it looks highly unlikely that we can expect any sensible compromise from the EU.
“It is well beyond time that our own government acted decisively.”