Ian Paisley has called for Britain to unilaterally disapply the Northern Ireland protocol because of a high level of disruption in goods moving from Britain to the North. Speaking at a meeting of Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the DUP's North Antrim MP said it was time to invoke article 16 of the protocol.
“The protocol’s effect has been an unmitigated disaster,” he said.
“I think a blind man on a galloping horse could have told you that this was going to be an unmitigated disaster. There are no such problems happening in Great Britain because they don’t have a protocol. The problems affect us.”
Article 16 of the protocol allows the EU or the UK to “unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures” if its application leads to “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist” or to diversion of trade.
“Such safeguard measures shall be restricted with regard to their scope and duration to what is strictly necessary in order to remedy the situation. Priority shall be given to such measures as will least disturb the functioning of this Protocol,” it says.
The committee heard from Northern Ireland business groups that although goods were moving smoothly from Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea, there had been severe disruption to movements in the other direction.
Seamus Leheny of the freight trade body Logistics UK said many companies based in Britain were still unaware of the need for customs declarations accompanying shipments to Northern Ireland.
He said one haulier had sent 285 trucks from Northern Ireland to Britain since January 1st but only 100 of them returned because of missing paperwork that made it impossible for loads to board vessels to cross the Irish Sea.
”The knock-on is that they can’t service NI exports going back to GB because they’ve got lorries and equipment sitting in England, waiting for loads that aren’t ready yet. This is because businesses in England, Scotland and Wales haven’t been prepared,” he said.
But Mr Leheny rejected Mr Paisley’s suggestion that the protocol should be disapplied, warning that such a move could create more disruption and deprive Northern businesses of the advantages of being able to trade freely with the EU and the rest of the UK.
“The fear is, if you invoke this, what is the alternative? Is it more chaos? Before you invoke article 16 you need a realistic alternative that is going to work, you just can’t simply walk away from this and think something else will be better. You need a clear plan of action on this and right now there is no clear alternative,” he said.