Leader of DUP calls Northern Ireland protocol 'unnecessary'

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The European Commission insisted “without a shadow of the doubt” that the Brexit deal’s Protocol to avoid a hard border respects the Good Friday Agreement. It came after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned the EU would be to blame if there’s a return to violence in the region. Responding to his comments, a Commission spokesman said: “It is an integral part of our agreements with the United Kingdom agreements which have been signed and ratified by both parties.

“Of course, we have said, and continue to say, that we are willing to engage in constructive dialogue with the United Kingdom on this.”

UK-EU relations are currently at breaking point as tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol threaten to boil over.

The two sides are at loggerheads over how to bring an end to the disruptions caused by the border fix and unionist anger over the measures.

In an explosive speech earlier today, Sir Jeffrey threatened to collapse Stormont’s power-sharing arrangements unless the Protocol is scrapped.

He also withdrew the DUP from bodies set up in the Good Friday Agreement to bolster North-South cooperation.

The unionist chief said: “I fear that unless we grapple with this issue this will prove to be merely a pause rather than an end to the disorder.

“It would be an absolute act of folly to believe that the anger has receded or the danger has passed.”

Sir Jeffrey argues the “stakes could not be higher” with the need to address the Protocol.

In a direct dig at the EU, he added: “There are those who say the Protocol is here to stay and should be rigorously implemented.

“Whilst there are others who believe that tinkering around the edges with a few mitigations will suffice.

“However, what flows from the Protocol is so fundamental and the problems that it creates so great that the consequences of adopting such a strategy, I believe, would damage Northern Ireland and our future prospects.”

He made the intervention just as EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic landed in Northern Ireland for a two-day tour to discuss the Brexit deal with people on the ground.

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Brexit minister Lord Frost has warned the border fix has caused severe disruption to trade in the area and that it also threatens the Good Friday peace agreement.

The Protocol prevents a hard border with Ireland by essentially keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.

In order to protect the bloc, there are some checks on products arriving from Great Britain.

Not all of the checks have been fully implemented yet due to previously agreed grace periods from the EU red tape.

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Earlier this week, Lord Frost announced these grace periods would be extended indefinitely to create space for further discussions with Brussels.

Lord Frost has called for the Brexit deal to be ripped open and overhauled in order to remove all trade checks and the European Court of Justice’s powers to police the treaty.

So far, Brussels has rejected any idea that the measures can be renegotiated and believes a solution to the problems in Northern Ireland can be found within the current framework.

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