NI Protocol 'absolutely devastating' for the region, Arlene Foster tells LBC

7 March 2021, 13:39 | Updated: 7 March 2021, 14:20

By Joe Cook

The Northern Ireland protocol, implemented as part of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, has been “absolutely devastating” for the region, the country’s First Minister has told LBC.

The contentious protocol was designed to avoid a hardening of the border on the island of Ireland, with Northern Ireland remaining in the EU single market for goods.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster told Swarbrick on Sunday there was a “real need to replace the protocol”, which she claims “has been absolutely devastating” for people in Northern Ireland.

Read more: Lord Frost calls on EU to 'shake off any remaining ill will' over Brexit

Ms Foster said reports that white and electrical goods could become more expensive in Northern Ireland due to new EU green rules was “yet another example of how the protocol is really impacting on the everyday lives of people”.

“I think this is something that really does need to be concentrated on to get a replacement to the protocol,” she told Tom Swarbrick.

The DUP has rejected claims it is whipping up tensions over Irish Sea trade in an effort to get Brexit's contentious Northern Ireland Protocol ditched.
The DUP has rejected claims it is whipping up tensions over Irish Sea trade in an effort to get Brexit's contentious Northern Ireland Protocol ditched. Picture: PA

The comments come at a tense time in relations between the EU and UK governments.

The European Commission have said they will launch legal action after the UK announced it was extending a series of "grace periods" designed to ease trade between Northern Ireland.

The intervention provoked a furious response in Brussels, with the EU accusing the UK of going back on its treaty obligations in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The Northern Ireland first minister told LBC: “I welcome the small moves that have been taken this week by our own government, but as you have seen, the reaction from the European Union has been one of hysteria and they are talking about taking legal action and all sorts of things.”

Read more: Liz Truss is 'very hopeful' of UK striking post-Brexit trade deal with the US

She added: “I think the European Union - I mean I attended the last joint committee that was meant to deal with these issues - was showing no flexibility at all. Therefore the government did have to act to protect the internal market of the United Kingdom.

“The European Union are very focused on protecting their single market, which is the European single market, but they don’t mind at all that it is damaging the internal market of the UK.

“I welcome the fact that the government did move, but there is much more to do and actually the architecture of the protocol itself needs to be dealt with.”

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Trucks leave Larne Port in Northern Ireland.
Trucks leave Larne Port in Northern Ireland. Picture: PA

The prime minister said the current stand-off with the European Union about trade regulations in Northern Ireland was "bound" to happen.

Asked about Lord Frost telling Brussels to stop sulking at Brexit, Boris Johnson told broadcasters: "I think this is one of those issues we were always bound to have in the early stages of our new relationship with our friends in the EU and the various technical issues we are going to iron out.

"I'm full of optimism about the future and the partnership we are building," he said on a visit to a vaccine centre in north London.