The Democratic Unionist Party has considered the broad aspects of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
As part of that consideration, we are mindful of the fact that Northern Ireland will operate in line with the UK – EU agreed protocol imposed upon Northern Ireland.
The Democratic Unionist Party opposed the Protocol and voted against it in the House of Commons. We consistently warned both the May and the Johnson Governments about treading this path. Sadly, despite our votes, the Government continued to pursue arrangements for Northern Ireland that were unnecessary and left uncorrected potentially damaging to the Northern Ireland economy.
Our guiding principle throughout the period of exit negotiations has been that Northern Ireland’s place within the internal market of the United Kingdom must not be undermined and Northern Ireland must continue to enjoy unfettered access both to, and from, Great Britain.
Whilst we accept that this agreement does bring about zero tariff and quota arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union thus removing many goods from attracting tariffs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the fact remains that this agreement does not assist Northern Ireland in the context of having to operate under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
When Parliament is recalled on Wednesday we will vote against this agreement. We will do so as a point of principle and not because we supported a no deal option. A free trade deal is better than no deal but for Northern Ireland this deal does not undo the detrimental aspects of the Protocol.
Understandably many in Great Britain will be able to support these arrangements as applied to Great Britain but sadly for Northern Ireland we will be governed by the arrangements in the Protocol. While Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory and we are out of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy we will be aligned with the EU for manufactured goods and food and animal products alongside other EU imposed restraints.
The removal of a so-called cliff edge on 1 January will be welcomed but more work will be required to ensure that we can maintain free flowing business supply lines from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. To that end we will continue to work with the Government to mitigate against those damaging practical outcomes flowing from the Protocol.
Ultimately we will test and judge all these issues on the basis of how they operate in practice and whether they deliver the unfettered access we were promised as far back as the Joint UK EU Report of December 2017. There will need to be further urgent work undertaken by the UK Government to deliver for Northern Ireland, particularly on those matters where a final outcome has not yet been secured. The Government needs to be bold and where necessary be prepared to act unilaterally to bring about those outcomes that underpin our full place in the most important internal market for us – that of the UK.
Commenting DUP Leader Arlene Foster MLA said,
“Whilst recognising this agreement brings about tariff and quota free trade between the UK and the EU and thus reducing the impact on the GB to NI trade flows we still have many negative issues arising from the Protocol. On that basis we will vote against this agreement. We will continue to work to mitigate the worst excesses of the separate Northern Ireland arrangements whilst exploring new opportunities for Northern Ireland.
Our challenge going forward will be to press the Government to get a better outcome in those areas where more work is needed.
These arrangements flowing from the protocol are of course temporary, in that the Northern Ireland Assembly will have the opportunity to revisit the protocol and vote upon it in four years time.”