By Richard Wheeler and Caitlin Doherty, PA Political Staff
Northern Ireland’s identity is being put at risk by post-Brexit trading arrangements, ministers have been warned.
DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim) warned he fears a “continuing downward spiral” in Northern Ireland unless Westminster takes action to resolve problems which have emerged in recent months.
Speaking during a statement on recent disorder in the region, Mr Paisley told the Commons: “It is a denial, sir, not to acknowledge the consequences of decisions taken by both front benches and imposed on Northern Ireland that have caused seismic societal, economic and community breakdowns – of course, that is the Northern Ireland Protocol, and we are witnessing the breakdown today.
“And all the condemnation in the world – and I condemn the violence – will not make that violence go away until actions are taken.
“The causes are not Covid-19. Seriously. The causes are not the Bobby Storey funeral – that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“The Secretary of State knows that the protocol lies at the heart of this because the identity of Ulster is at stake as a result of the protocol.
“And I fear a continuing downward spiral unless the Secretary of State takes action and the key action he could take is to invoke Article 16, take control of this situation.”
At this point, Mr Paisley’s video feed slowed down and he became inaudible.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said he understood Mr Paisley’s point.
He acknowledged concerns around the protocol and highlighted the Government’s unilateral action designed to support firms.
Mr Lewis added: “We’ve been very clear we’ll take the action we need to take to make sure this works for Northern Ireland.”
He said he wants that to be done through the “proper channels” to reach an “agreeable solution” to benefit the UK and the EU.
DUP Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called on the Government to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol with something which restores the region’s place fully within the UK internal market.
Carla Lockhart, DUP MP for Upper Bann, earlier asked Mr Lewis whether he accepted how deep anger is in unionist communities.
She said: “Whilst all right-minded people will condemn any violence or threat of violence in Northern Ireland, whether now or in the past, does the Secretary of State accept that the anger in the unionist community goes far beyond those who have taken to the streets in recent days?
“Will the Secretary of State take any opportunity to point out to his Irish and European colleagues, whose belligerent approach has exacerbated the difficulties, that the rigorous implementation of the protocol is not only inconsistent with the Belfast Agreement, but is also, even before it is being implemented in full, causing societal difficulties in Northern Ireland?”
Mr Lewis replied: “We are determined to work through these issues and make sure that the protocol is one that can work for everybody in a sense that is pragmatic, flexible and free-flowing trade for GB to NI.”