DUP politicians swerve cross-Border meeting over North protocol

‘If you’re unprepared to be part of the solution then you stand accused of being part of the problem’

Democratic Unionist Party Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) have boycotted a cross-Border Brexit meeting to demonstrate opposition to the Northern Ireland protocol.

The Stormont Executive Office committee held a joint meeting on Wednesday with TDs and Senators from the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Last week the DUP announced a five-point plan to have Northern Ireland "freed from the protocol" and said it would stop all cross-Border activity related to it.

Unionists are opposed to the protocol because it places a customs and regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

Committee chairman Colin McGrath, an SDLP MLA, said he had been told members of the DUP would not attend the cross-Border part of the meeting, which he described as “disappointing.”

“There are many businesses and many groups who will be impacted by the rollout of the protocol in its early days, and I feel that if you’re not prepared to be part of the solution then you stand accused of being part of the problem,” he said.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, who was the only unionist representative present, warned thereare "frictions and instabilities at this moment in time . . . we are going to have to address them . . . because if this continues we could see the unravelling of an awful lot of good work that's been done over many years."

Mr Beattie said that in Northern Ireland there was “a fine balance” and had a hard border been erected that balance would have been upset.

All parties present expressed their regret at the DUP absence. Fianna Fáil Senator Niall Blaney expressed disappointment "the DUP have decided not to partake"while Fine Gael Senator Jennifer Carroll MacNeill said she is on the committee "so that I can build friendships . . . on a shared island."