EU plot to punish UK: Barnier’s absurd protocol only has one aim – he ignored basic facts

EU: Domestic policy ‘harmful’ for single market says expert

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The European Commission has repeatedly said its internal market, in which people, goods, services and money can move around freely, would be undermined if undocumented products ended up crossing the border into the Republic. But Steve Aiken, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MLA for South Antrim, has rubbished the bloc’s reasons for insisting the disruptive checks must go ahead.

Pointing to figures, the chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly finance committee and former UUP leader told “Northern Ireland represents 0.02 percent of the total GDP of the EU and the UK combined.

“There is absolutely no way that any goods coming into Northern Ireland are a significant risk to the EU single market.”

He added: “How can the integrity of the vast size of the EU single market be undermined by 0.02 percent of the GDP potentially coming into Northern Ireland.

“That ignores the basic fact that we’re on an island surrounded by water so everything has to come on and everything has to come off.

“If the Europeans are really that concerned about it, why don’t they impose a set of light-touch checks on goods coming from the Republic of Ireland going into mainland Europe?

“They’re not concerned about it anywhere else in Europe, why are they concerned about it here?”

He suggested Brussels had used the reason to justify its demands to cover up its aim to “punish the United Kingdom” for Brexit, adding: “I have no doubt about that.”

As the row between the UK Government and Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol intensified last week, the EU reiterated its claim.

The Commission said it had “already indicated its openness to finding solutions” to the dispute with Britain, as long as they were in line with the protocol.

But EU bosses warned “for that to happen, the UK must fully implement the Protocol, which is the solution found to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, the functioning of the all-island economy, and the integrity of the EU’s Single Market”.

Mr Aiken said the post-Brexit rules that Northern Ireland businesses and traders are subject to are “ridiculous”.

The Northern Ireland protocol, a key part of the Brexit deal that established a trade border between the Six Counties and Britain to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has emerged as a major point of contention between London and Brussels.

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The EU insists all goods arriving from Britain must be subject to sanitary checks – in case they unintentionally end up in the Republic, an EU member state.

But the UK has said it will not roll out a system of “dynamic alignment” in which British exporters would have to abide by rules set in Brussels in order to send shipments across the Irish Sea.

With no end of the row in sight, Mr Aiken said he hoped the EU or the UK Government “come to their senses” in the spat.

He said: “This is a ridiculous situation. The entire protocol is an absurdity.

“The fact here we are six months in and we’re discussing issues to do with medicines that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, issues with animals that need to be vaccinated for non-existent diseases, I could talk for hours about the complete absurdities we are having to deal with.

“None of this should have come to the fore, none of this should have been imposed.

“And actually the best way to move forward is to get rid of the protocol.

“We made some very sensible proposals about making sure that we don’t have any borders north, south, east or west.

“It’s about time that the EU or the UK started listening to those proposals particularly for the people of Northern Ireland to be able to deal with these issues.”

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