New Brexit Minster met with Scepticism by Unionists

Following her recent appointment as the new Brexit minister, the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has stated that she may trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, if talks in the new year are unsuccessful.

The debate surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol and Brexit -along with its frequently debated draw backs and benefits- are regular conversation in the political world.

The TUV councillor for Ballymena, Matthew Armstrong, stated his views on the recent resignation of Lord Frost and the plan from Liz Truss.

“Maybe the time was opportune for him to move on somewhere else. I didn’t have much confidence in him delivering for Northern Ireland, what he said he would anyway,” the councillor explained.

The Deputy Mayor also stated that the scepticism also extends to the newest chief negotiator. “I think that scepticism extends to Liz Trust, but we have to give them their chance.” 

Matthew Armstrong also states, “I think the longer it goes on and the more rumours that come out from journalists and other government officials. It does not look like unionism, as I see it, is going to get what is needing from the process. Hence the scepticism.”

“Brexit has not been delivered for the whole of the united Kingdom. That this difficulty here. The EU, Dublin -perhaps you can throw London into the mix- seem more concerned with protecting the EU single market. Quite simply, if the EU wish to protect their single market they can do that with the Frontier.”

The Sinn Fein councillor for Coast Road, James McKeown, said he sees this as an expected outcome from Westminster in terms of the response to Brexit.

“The immediate thought was that it just summed up the whole British approach to Brexit”, the councillor stated.

“This is the sixth minister in such a short space of time. It seems to be in respect to the Protocol for the British government, it does not seem to be high on their priority list.”

“Now they are trying to renegotiate the terms of it, which should have really been sorted out before there was any signing up.” The Sinn Fein councillor said.

“Everybody knows that there are flaws with the Protocol. Even at the start, Michelle and others were saying that there are flaws, but as we go along, we can work these out.

“I don’t think the British are in that big a hurry to sort anything out. They wanted to leave Europe. This is the sort of price that they are willing to pay, as in, any hardship that falls on this part of the island.”

The Cost Road councillor states the possible triggering of Article 16 by the new negotiator Liz Truss would be in “extremely bad faith”. 

“I think that it would be in extremely bad faith. I think that Europe has been very patient with the British government over their dealings.”

The leader of the PUP, Billy Hutchinson, explains that when the EU referendum was taking place, a large number of voters from the unionist and loyalist community were worried that the vote may lead to a united Ireland.

“People tried to warn them, including myself, that if we leave the European Union, it will open the way for a united Ireland,” the PUP leader said.

“That’s what we’re having now. It may be an economic united Ireland at the moment, but I think a number of years down the line, that will really damage what is happening.”

 “That’s the view from people on the ground, that is their concern.” The unionist party leader described the view from his community.

“They talk about their Britishness being diluted. There’s two arguments, there is the constitutional argument and then there is the trade argument.”

Though trade is one of the concerns brought about by the Protocol, the PUP leader explained. “This is not about the trade per say. We’re left back in the single market so there is a diversion of trade, and that diversion of trade takes things away from the UK and directs it towards the EU.”

“That trade then goes to the EU, and the trade we always had with the UK is directed away from them, with around 70 to 80% of your trade being in the EU rather than the UK.”

“What people would argue is rather than having an economic relationship with Brussels that includes Dublin, they want it to be with the UK.”

“There’s a notion about Europe and by the Americans that if you create a united Ireland what happens is there is no problem with the Protocol.”

Though there are a large number of arguments against the Protocol, some others present some cases for the border in the Irish Sea. Some cite family living in the Republic, while others may point out the economic aspect of dealing with Europe in the single market.

However, this is argued against by a large number of unionist politicians.

“The argument is legitimate argument”, states Billy Hutchinson when asked about the SDLP’s support for the Protocol.

“But they want a united Ireland. So of course, they want all the trade to go to Europe.”

The TUV’s Matthew Armstrong also put forward what he believes are the benefits of East-West trade, as opposed to trade solely being directed to the North and South.

“There is a clear shift from the bulk of trade and the primary trade from Northern Ireland being East-West, but it’s now been orientated North-South.”

“If you wish to wish to trade with a smaller market, for example the Republic of Ireland, and have your economic orbit between North and South then you may say that the Protocol is working for you.” The Ballymena councillor stated.

“However, common sense and logic would tell you that your largest partner is to the East. Therefore, it is the East-West link that would need to be maintained over and above the North and South links.”

The debate surrounding the Protocol continues, as additional talks are set for the new year. 

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Journalism bachelors graduate form the class of 2021. Interested in current affairs and Northern Irish politics and social issues.