UK

Boris Johnson visits Northern Ireland amid furious row over Brexit impact

Boris Johnson is in Northern Ireland today amid a furious row over the impact of Brexit on the country.

The Prime minister was told to  to ‘stand up for Northern Ireland’ and ditch the ‘intolerable’ Protocol governing Irish Sea trade post-Brexit by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Extra checks on goods passing through Northern Ireland’s ports from the rest of the UK following Brexit have angered unionists.

But Mr Johnson flew straight into a political row over his visit, as Sinn Fein snubbed an invitation to join him.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill refused to be seen with him after he rejected her demand for a political meeting with Sinn Fein leaders

But he held a ‘frank’ conversations with the DUP’s First Minister Ms Foster  on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

She said he had been in ‘listening mode’ and ‘alive to the issues’.

The First Minister said: ‘Not a single unionist party in Northern Ireland supports this unworkable Protocol.

‘Rather than protect the Belfast Agreement and its successor agreements, the Protocol has created societal division and economic harm.

‘Whilst grace periods have been extended unilaterally, we need a permanent solution so business can plan and the integrity of the United Kingdom internal market can be restored.’    

The Prime minister was told to to ‘stand up for Northern Ireland’ and ditch the ‘intolerable’ Protocol governing Irish Sea trade post-Brexit by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

The Prime Minister flew straight into a political row over checks on goods that have set up a fresh confrontation with Brussels.

The Prime Minister flew straight into a political row over checks on goods that have set up a fresh confrontation with Brussels.

Mr Johnson toured a mass vaccination centre in Arlene Foster's Co Fermanagh constituency.

Mr Johnson toured a mass vaccination centre in Arlene Foster’s Co Fermanagh constituency.

Last night Michael Gove announced Britain will delay the introduction of the controls on some imports from the European Union because of coronavirus disruption, amid growing loyalist anger. 

Mr Johnson toured a mass vaccination centre in Arlene Foster’s Co Fermanagh constituency. 

He was joined by the DUP leader and Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann at the converted Lakeland Forum leisure centre in Enniskillen. 

The Government had agreed to phase in customs requirements for GB imports from the EU over a six-month period in the first half of 2021. 

But the Government has now extended the timetable by a further six months after businesses said they needed more time to prepare. 

Full border control processes will now be introduced on January 1 2022 – six months later than originally planned.

The move has triggered threats of legal action from the EU and a war of words over the Brexit deal signed less than three months ago.   

Mr Johnson speaking to people waiting to be vaccinated at the Lakeland Forum vaccination centre in Enniskillen

Mr Johnson speaking to people waiting to be vaccinated at the Lakeland Forum vaccination centre in Enniskillen

Stormont’s leaders are deeply divided over the wisdom of Brexit and the Protocol.

The Protocol was agreed by the EU and UK during the withdrawal negotiations to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It achieves that by keeping Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods, with regulatory checks and inspections now required on agri-food produce moving into the region from the rest of the UK.

The new arrangements have caused some disruption to trade since the start of the year as firms have struggled with new processes and administration.

Unionists are opposed to the protocol, claiming it undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

Nationalists acknowledge teething problems with the new arrangements but argue that they can be finessed.

Northern Ireland’s centenary programme marking the anniversary of the state’s foundation will champion young people of the future, Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson later visited Queen's University in Belfast

Mr Johnson later visited Queen’s University in Belfast

It will also pay tribute to those who worked tirelessly to support the region during the pandemic, he added.

Plans for 2021 include a major business showcase in London, a £1 million Shared History Fund, an ambitious programme for young people, tree-planting projects, academic and historic events and an international church service for all denominations.

Mr Johnson said 2021 ‘marks 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, which has paved the way for the formation of the UK as we know it.

‘Our centenary programme will reflect on the past and on the people and developments that make Northern Ireland the great place it is today.’

Nationalists and unionists hold sharply differing views of the history of Northern Ireland: on its past governance and public representation; the security situation including decades of conflict; seismic events like the Second World War or the civil rights movement; and over issues like public housing, freedom to demonstrate and equal voter representation.


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