The rivals formed an unlikely alliance to fight the Brexit deal’s protocol to avoid a hard border. It comes after the DUP threatened to quit power-sharing arrangements if the border fix was not torn up by Brussels and Downing Street. The DUP, supported by the UUP, TUV and PUP, warned of the “grave damage” inflicted as a result of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.
It was claimed that relations with Ireland and the European Union cannot be achieved as long as the region is subjected to the bloc’s laws.
The intervention is seen as a significant attempt to show the DUP’s hardline position is not isolated and the EU-ordered trade rules are damaging the peace process.
In a statement, the four parties said: “We, the undersigned unionist political leaders, affirm our opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, its mechanisms and structures and reaffirm our unalterable position that the Protocol must be rejected and replaced by arrangements which fully respect Northern Ireland’s position as a constituent and integral part of the United Kingdom.”
They added: “The huge disruption of trade in the supply of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has caused unnecessary supply chain disruption and unacceptable and unsustainable levels of bureaucracy and barriers to trade within our own nation.
“The resulting diversion and reorientation of trade is destructive of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and will result in an economic realignment which is unacceptable.”
The warning is expected to be welcomed by Boris Johnson and his Brexit minister Lord Frost, who have both called for the protocol to be renegotiated.
They want to alter the legal text to eliminate all trade checks between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain and end the European Court of Justice’s powers to police the measures.
Lord Frost has said the border fix has caused enough disruption to justify triggering Article 16 to unilaterally override many of the controls.
But EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic has rejected any renegotiation and instead is pushing for solutions to be found within the framework of the Brexit deal.
The top eurocrat has revealed to EU capitals that he will publish a series of proposals in the coming weeks in the hope of breaking the deadlock.
Downing Street has said it will not accept any of these tweaks as a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer.
Brussels has said it could trigger a trade war or start legal proceedings against the Government if Article 16 is triggered.
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The four unionist parties have warned they could not support the protocol unless the EU and UK scrapped all checks on goods.
They called for a “proportionate and equitable solution” to restore “unfettered trade” in the UK’s internal market.
It has been suggested that Lord Frost could trigger Article 16 at next week’s Conservative party conference if the EU doesn’t show enough willingness to compromise.
The publication of Brussels’ plans is due to coincide with the event in Manchester.
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