Northern Ireland protocol: Allister discusses 'saving the Union'
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The NI Protocol aims to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland by ensuring Northern Ireland continues to adhere to some of the EU’s rules and regulations – but critics including DUP leader Arlene Foster say as a result it has created a border down the Irish Sea instead. A group of Brexiteers including former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib and Jim Allister QC, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party, have been pushing for a judicial review into the legality of the arrangements. Last week they launched a crowdfunding page to raise money to cover its costs.
A statement issued today by the applicants confirmed the Government has conceded a leave application for a judicial review, with the action expected to be heard in the High Court in Belfast between May 13 and 18.
Mr Allister said: “While it is welcome that HMG reversed its initial response and is not now opposing our leave application in the Judicial Review, it should now face up to the main issue.
“Is this Government, which built its Brexit policy on ‘taking back control’, going to make a mockery of its own mantra by defending in court a Protocol which hands control of Northern Ireland to the EU?
“Is Boris Johnston’s government going to be the one that defends the Protocol’s flagrant breach of the Acts of Union and wholly disrespects the ‘consent principle’ on which it claims its Northern Ireland policy is based?”
Mr Allister said it was time for the Government to “face reality”, stop “defending the indefensible and instead to defend the integrity of the United Kingdom.
Mr Habib added: “I am delighted the government has conceded that leave should be granted without a preliminary hearing.
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“It’s doing so is an acknowledgement of the integrity of the grounds of our case.
“I know I speak for all of us, the complainants and our supporters, when I say we are looking forward to having our day in court.”
Implementation of the protocol has been fraught with difficulty since the stat of the year.
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The EU launched legal action, accusing the UK of again breaching international law, after London unilaterally extended the post-Brexit grace periods on trade in the region.
The bloc is demanding the UK provides a “credible road map” to implementing the outstanding requirements under the protocol.
Both sides said talks between officials on Friday took place in a “constructive atmosphere”.
A statement issued by the European Commission, also on Friday, said: “The EU stands ready to find swift, pragmatic solutions within the framework of the Protocol, and on the basis of a joint list of outstanding issues,” a statement from the European Commission said on Friday.
“The EU is expecting to receive the roadmap in the next coming days.”
Both sides said they would remain in regular contact over the coming weeks in a bid to resolve the outstanding problems.
As things stand, goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Britain face a long list of checks, which are only set to increase when the grace periods expire.
Speaking earlier this month, Mrs Foster said: “Obviously there’s a huge disproportionate attention on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“We’ve warned about that, we’ve said that the architecture of the protocol is causing damage to the east/west relationship and how maddening and how bizarre when you’re moving goods within the internal market of a country that you have more checks on that than you have for the entire EU.
“It’s completely mad and therefore is a very good illustration as to why the protocol needs replaced.”
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