Northern Ireland’s four main unionist parties this morning signed a joint declaration in opposition to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
The declaration is signed by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP leader Doug Beattie, TUV leader Jim Allister and PUP leader Billy Hutchinson.
The stance from the four parties is significant as the protocol needs to pass a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly in December 2024 for it to stand.
The four parties who signed the declaration against the protocol have 37 out of 90 seats in Stormont.
The joint declaration states: “We, the undersigned unionist political Leaders, affirm our opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, its mechanisms and structures and reaffirm our unalterable position that the protocol must be rejected and replaced by arrangements which fully respect Northern Ireland’s position as a constituent and integral part of the United Kingdom”.
The protocol is a part of the Brexit treaty and sees a so-called border in the Irish Sea, with some checks on goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
This has infuriated some sections of the unionist community as they think it separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and makes reunification with the Republic of Ireland more likely.
The DUP, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, has been against the protocol since its implementation, with the new support from other parties a boon to their cause.
The party vowed earlier this month to leave Stormont if the protocol isn’t ripped up, with the threat set to be carried out “within weeks”.
“The huge disruption of trade in the supply of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has caused unnecessary supply chain disruption and unacceptable and unsustainable levels of bureaucracy and barriers to trade within our own nation,” the joint statement read.
“The resulting diversion and reorientation of trade is destructive of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and will result in an economic realignment which is unacceptable.”
The four parties want no checks on any goods crossing the Irish Sea, which would essentially tear up the protocol.
Boris Johnson has called for the EU to apply less stringent border checks, claiming Brussels’ interpretation is causing economic and political tensions in Northern Ireland.
The UK wants to redraw the treaty and to rely on an “honesty box” approach, which would see exporters from Great Britain declare whether or not their goods were intended for sale outside Northern Ireland.
Brussels has flatly rejected this and are only open to discussions on how to implement the current text.