Brexit: Northern Ireland 'annexed' by Protocol claims Habib
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Northern Ireland remains at the centre of an ongoing wrangle between Brussels and London with respect to the controversial mechanism for preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland. Under the terms of the Protocol, the region remains within the EU’s single market for services, and therefore subject to many of its rules and regulations.
Critics in the Unionist community are angry because they regard it as having imposed a border down the Irish Sea – and of having driven a wedge between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The UK incurred the wrath of the bloc by unilaterally extending a grace period prior to the introduction of more stringent checks until October, prompting Brussels to launch legal action.
Mr Habib pulled no punches in a scathing column written for Express.co.uk today, saying of the PM: “The continued delay in facing up to the EU and protecting Northern Ireland suggests he is all talk, no action.”
New research by economist Dr Esmond Birnie of Ulster University Business School had put the cost of the Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol at £850million a year, Mr Habib pointed out.
Nevertheless, the Protocol, which was introduced at the beginning of 2021, is not due for review by Stormont until 2024, when it can only be ejected by a majority vote – unlikely given the balance of power.
He added: “The total cost by then will have been more than £3.4bn.
“And if it is not rejected it would then roll on for a further four years with at least that sum blown again.”
Mr Habib, who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the Protocol in Northern Ireland’s High Court earlier this year, added: “We know the Protocol is undemocratic, having never had the consent of the Northern Irish people, as was and remains their right under the Belfast Agreement.
“We know the Protocol is a threat to peace, for it makes second class citizens of the province’s populace and destabilises its place in the Union.
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“Now we have an estimate of the actual costs of that friction. We cannot afford to wait to revoke the Protocol.
“It must go now and the first stage in that process is for the Prime Minister to apply the Protocol’s ‘safeguard’ provision of Article 16, allowing for its suspension.”
Dr Birnie had assessed the cost of preparation and paperwork for customs clearance to bring goods into NI from GB rose an additional six percent on trade currently valued at £10billion, resulting in a cost of £600million, Mr Habib said.
An additional cost of £250million a year came from extra costs borne through its Trader Support, Digital Assistance Scheme and extra work at ports, Mr Habib explained.
He added: “After decades of neglect NI endures the largest regional deficit in the UK, costing the Exchequer over £8billion a year. Adding nearly another £1billion a year, thanks to the Protocol, will condemn the province to penury. So much for levelling up the country.”
He added: “It is an abuse of the people of Northern Ireland.
“And, in case he has forgotten, Boris Johnson was elected on a promise of the country leaving the EU as one United Kingdom – that should include Northern Ireland! Repeatedly claiming the Protocol does not diminish NI’s position does not make that true.
“His own lawyers and the High Court in Belfast accept the Protocol has set aside fundamental aspects of the Act of Union.”
Mr Habib said: “Indeed, at the same time as claiming NI’s position has not been diminished, both the Prime Minister and his Brexit minister, Lord Frost, acknowledge the extreme damage it is causing.
“This has now been confirmed in monetary terms by Dr Birnie. And yet they still sit on their hands and take no definitive action.
“When even the dogs in the street know that Northern Ireland Protocol is not working it’s time for Johnson and Frost to do what has thus far so eluded them, the right thing: ditch the Protocol, save our union and the people of Northern Ireland.”
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