Brexit fury: Unionists erupt at destructive EU deal as Article 16 pressure heats up

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Jim Allister, the Traditional Unionist Voice’s founder, branded the UK withdrawal agreement as “so destructive” for the province. He spoke amid simmering tensions between the bloc and Brexit Britain about the Northern Ireland Protocol – which has effectively kept the province in the customs union.

This has outraged its Unionist community – which is fiercely protective of its British identity – for creating a border in the Irish Sea.

Writing in the Belfast Newsletter, Mr Allister claimed that the ongoing discussions are like “tinkering” with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Belfast which ended 30 years of violence.

He added: “Likewise, mere tinkering with the Protocol will not work.

“If the basic architecture of foreign rule and sovereignty remains, then, nothing of significance would have changed.

“Many unionists were conned by exaggerated claims of change at St Andrew’s (which set in motion the Northern Ireland power sharing agreement).

“The same must not happen again.

“Nor must a Unionist party again try to package tinkering as real change.”

Mr Allister described the post-Brexit trading arrangements as being “so destructive of the Union that it must go, in all its parts”.

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He added: “I repeat, again, the test of any fresh proposals is the sovereignty test – would we still be left in a foreign single market for goods, under a foreign customs code and VAT regime, enforced by foreign laws and governed by a foreign Supreme Court.

“If so, then, nothing of substance would have changed.”

Mr Allister spoke shortly before Brexit Secretary Lord Frost branded the EU’s current proposals to reform the Protocol as not going “far enough” as pressure on the UK to trigger Article 16 ramps up.

Appearing before MPs, the Tory minister admitted that Brussels’ stance does “for the first time, acknowledge they might be willing to change their own laws in order to deal with the special situation in Northern Ireland”.

But he continued: “The problem with them is that they don’t go far enough.

“I’m not sure they would quite deliver the kind of ambitious freeing-up of trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that we want to see, but what we’re trying to test is whether they could find the basis to go further than what they have put on the table.

“That’s the kind of discussions we have been having and it has been quite constructive so far, but the gaps between us remain significant, and there is a lot of working through to go.”

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