Ben Habib: We haven’t actually had Brexit yet
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And Ben Habib has further branded the Northern Ireland minister a “buffoon” as he called for him to be sacked. The former Brexit Party MEP’s scathing response was triggered Mr Lewis’s refusal, during a visit to County Down on Tuesday, to set an “arbitrary timetable” for resolving the simmering row between the UK and the Ursula von der Leyen’s EU.
The Protocol is the mechanism agreed by the UK and the EU to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
However, Unionist critics, including DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, claim by keeping Northern Ireland in the bloc’s single market for goods, it has instead resulted in a border down the Irish Sea.
Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “In September 2020 Brandon Lewis stated in the Commons the Government had no option but to break international law in a defined and limited way in order to nullify the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“He caused a furore and then did nothing.”
Mr Habib explained: “On January 1, 2021, when the Protocol came into effect, he declared on Twitter there is no Irish Sea border.
“He was forced to retract this idiotic claim within days.”
He added: “All they then did is hesitate. They hesitated to the point of forcing Lord Frost to resign as the minister in charge of Brexit.
“Liz Truss came out punching last week again saying she would invoke Article 16.
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The man is a buffoon
“No sooner had she done so, Brandon Lewis pulled the rug out from under feet saying no arbitrary date would be set. The man is a buffoon.”
Mr Habib added: “If there are grounds to invoke the Article, it is because Northern Ireland is suffering. In that case the Government is obliged to invoke.
“Brandon Lewis epitomises the hopelessly confused, politically weak, duplicitous approach this Government has to Brexit and the union of the United Kingdom. He should be sacked.”
Mr Lewis has so far resisted demands for the Government to provide a timetable for when changes will be made to the post-Brexit agreement.
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He said: “I’m not setting arbitrary time frames.
“As I say, myself and the Foreign Secretary will be meeting with Maros Sefcovic on Thursday this week.
“There’s a series then of talks that will hopefully follow that building on the work we’ve already done.
“Our position hasn’t changed – we need to resolve this in a way that works for the people of Northern Ireland and we want to do that as quickly as possible.
“We want to do that in a way that is sustainable and can deliver for people.”
Ms Truss was handed responsibility for the negotiations with the EU over the Protocol after Lord Frost resigned as Brexit minister last month.
On Monday, she held meetings with the DUP and Sinn Fein, after Sir Jeffrey indicated a “pause” on the DUP threat to collapse the power-sharing institutions at Stormont over the Protocol pending the outcome of renewed negotiations between the UK and EU over the Irish Sea trading barriers.
Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the Foreign Secretary told her that she did not want to trigger Article 16 of the Protocol.
In an op-ed written for the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, Ms Truss said: “The current problems are myriad and manifest. Red tape means that anyone who wants to send a parcel to Northern Ireland from Great Britain would need to fill out a customs declaration to do so – if the rules were implemented in full.
“Families cannot take their pets with them when travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland without costly paperwork and unnecessary veterinary treatments. Northern Ireland’s Jewish community has struggled to get kosher food.”
She added: “Fundamentally, this is about the security of our communities, the needs of businesses and the integrity of our country. As it stands, the Protocol has lost the consent of the Unionist community over fears it is dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
“As a sovereign nation, we cannot be in a situation where we have to notify the EU to provide vital support to businesses – such as targeted tax breaks – in one part of our country.”
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