European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has stated that the trade problems in Northern Ireland are not a result of the Protocol introduced after the UK left the EU but rather Brexit itself. A new series of post-Brexit checks on GB-to-NI goods at the ports of Belfast and Larne, which are contained in the Protocol, have sparked anger among unionists and loyalists who feel Northern Ireland is being separated from the rest of the UK.
Some have also claim that the tensions are caused by other factors separate to the Protocol. Loyalists recently told a Westminster committee that there was ‘seething anger’ at PM Johnson’s broken promise of unfettered GB-to-NI access.
In recent weeks, Westminster politicians have called for the Protocol to be pared back from what was originally agreed; Minister of State David Frost said during a trip to Northern Ireland that “common sense” must be used to solve the issue quickly. He also said recently that the UK’s relationship with Brussels will be “a bit bumpy for a time”.
Von der Leyen said yesterday: “The beginnings are not easy, tensions are being felt around the access, for example, of EU fishing boats, or tensions are without any doubt there around the implementation of the Protocol of Northern Ireland.”