Boris Johnson urged by Habib to take action on NI protocol
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Mr Trimble was speaking as he backed a new crowdfunding drive aimed at funding the ongoing legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which organisers believe represents a threat to the Union by imposing a border down the Irish Sea. Senior Unionists including current First Minister Arlene Foster have already lodged a bid for a judicial review into the legality of the NI Protocol at the High Court of Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month announced the UK was unilaterally extending the grace period for checks on food going from Britain to Northern Ireland, prompting Brussels to initiate legal proceedings.
And critics including Mr Trimble and Mrs Foster believe it is high time the PM bit the bullet – and tore up the controversial arrangements once and for all.
Mr Trimble – whose efforts in 1998 secured him the Nobel Peace Prize – said: “I have joined in these legal proceedings because Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom is at stake.
“Extensive parts of Northern Ireland – much of its economic fabric – have been turned into a colony of the European Union.”
The Protocol had its roots in the bloc’s reaction to the 2016 referendum result, Mr Trimble explained.
He added: “The EU negotiators insisted on a Protocol to regulate the relationship between the EU and NI, indeed at that time senior EU officials repeatedly said that losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would have to pay to leave the EU.
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“The UK negotiators were unable to get the EU to agree to eliminate the protocol, and the only way our government was able to implement the referendum by leaving was to accept the protocol by way of concession.”
However, the consequent arrangements represented a serious breach of the UK’s constitution.
Speaking of Mr Johnson’s approach, Mr Trimble said: “We accept that the government is trying to mitigate and minimise the effects of the protocol, but that is not enough.
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“It does not change the fact that the government is acting contrary to our constitution, and that is why we have concluded that the only way we can deal with it is by taking legal proceedings.”
Mrs Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), added: “We cannot allow our United Kingdom to be ripped apart and our UK internal market to be divided in order to protect the single market of the EU.
“When I launched a petition calling for unfettered GB-NI trade, over 100k people joined with us in just over 24hrs. This is another opportunity for everyone who opposes the Protocol to play their part.
“We will work with other Unionists to send a united message to our Government and to free Northern Ireland from the Protocol.
“Whilst the courts is one front in this fight, the UK Government must use all powers at its disposal to immediately remove any barriers to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom.”
The move also has the backing of former Labour MP Kate Hoey, now Baroness Hoey, who is chairwoman of Parliament’s Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee.
She said: “Bringing together all those who believe in Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom is a huge step forward in the campaign to end the Protocol.
“I am proud to be part of the legal action we are engaged in. I am not prepared to allow those living in Northern Ireland to be treated as second class citizens of our own country – the UK.
“Everyone who believes the Protocol is damaging not just to the constitutional position but also to our economic prospects can play their part to end this injustice.”
Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib, the chairman of recently launched media channel Unlocked and a vociferous critic of the ProtocoL, has played a leading role in the push for the legal review.
He said: “The Prime Minister promised to deliver the country out of the EU as one United Kingdom. He broke that promise
immediately on being elected.
“We are the only country in history to have voluntarily partitioned itself. We must not rest until the Protocol is ended. It is vital that all pro-Unionists join together in this fight.”
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