Northern Ireland protocol ‘should not be renegotiated’

Conservative politician warns against ‘hubristic threats to blow the house down’

Simon Hoare: ‘It’s not a vehicle to go back to square one and renegotiate.’

The Northern Ireland protocol should not be renegotiated, but may need fine tuning and finessing, says the chairman of a key British House of Commons committee.

The protocol kept Northern Ireland in the EU single market following Brexit in January, but will require customs checks on goods travelling between the North and Britain.

Simon Hoare, chairman of the House of Commons Northern Ireland select committee, told a British-Irish Chamber of Commerce conference on Thursday that the deal should not be renegotiated.

“It’s not a vehicle to go back to square one and renegotiate,” he said. “I think that’s politically arid and particularly destabilising for business.”


He warned that “hubristic threats to blow the house down” were not the way that democracy worked.

The Westminster parliament member was speaking a day after the High Court in Belfast threw out legal challenges to the deal, negotiated with the EU by British prime minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Justice Colton's ruling prompted Democratic Unionist Party member Jeffrey Donaldson to warn there were "potential consequences for the future stability of political institutions" in Northern Ireland if not resolved.

Responding to questions from host Ian McLaughlin, chief executive Bank of Ireland UK, Mr Hoare stressed that the protocol could not affect Northern Ireland’s constitutional status.

The Conservative politician said this could only be achieved through procedures set out in the Belfast Agreement.


Mr Hoare argued that small- and medium-sized businesses, which he noted were the lifeblood of the North’s economy, needed ongoing certainty.

He conceded that the deal, negotiated with the EU by British prime minister Boris Johnson, may require fine tuning and finessing as it was never going to be perfect.

“Then we should focus on what are the strategic benefits of the protocol,” he told the online gathering.

He added that businesses and farmers in his North Dorset parliament constituency would “give their eye teeth” to get access to the EU single market.

Mr Hoare agreed that trust needed to be restored between the EU and the British government.

He said his government needed to reassure the EU that the UK would not dramatically lower its manufacturing standards. Nor, he said, would the North be used as a dumping ground for non-EU goods, from where they could be shipped to the Republic.

“Once we square that circle, trust can be restored,” said Mr Hoare.

He noted that all sides would ultimately have to operate the protocol and play the hand they were dealt.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas