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DUP Leader Edwin Poots held a virtual meeting with EU Vice President Maros Sefcovic on Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking afterwards Mr Poots said,

“The Northern Ireland Protocol is a clear violation of the Articles of Union and has damaged the political, economic and cultural stability within Northern Ireland. This could have been avoided.

It is often cited by supporters of the Protocol that it was necessary to protect the 1998 Belfast Agreement. However, the Protocol breaches that Agreement. Neither the UK Government, Irish Government, or the EU have upheld the principle of consent or ensured parity of esteem throughout this process. As a result, the unionist community in Northern Ireland has been completely ignored and tensions between communities have risen in recent months.

Northern Ireland is subject to rules without any say in the making of those rules. Aside from the lack of involvement given to the unionist community in the creation and implementation of the Protocol, everyone will suffer due to the detrimental impact of the Protocol and the way it has effectively separated us from our largest market in GB.

The Government has further cemented the democratic deficit created by the Protocol, by imposing a consent mechanism which only permits a vote on whether to retain or disapply every four years.

The only way to address this is for the EU and the UK to admit and accept that the Protocol has not worked and that alternatives must be examined which respect all borders and markets to protect the political stability of NI.

The EU clearly do not recognise that trade between GB and NI poses no or an extremely low risk to the EU single market, therefore the Protocol is not proportionate to the potential risks and must be replaced.

Disruption to medicine flows to NI may be experienced once the current twelve-month grace period has ended. After this, medicines moving from GB to NI will be handled as though they are moving into a third country. This is detrimental to the health of Northern Irish citizens and denies them the same fundamental and basic rights to healthcare treatment that other citizens of the United Kingdom receive.

It is our considered opinion that the prescribed threshold of ‘serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade’ has not only been met, but exceeded.”