SDLP Brexit Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has welcomed a move from the European Commission to put forward solutions to outstanding issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The EU has proposed plans to extend the grace period for chilled meats and deal with issues around medicines, the movement of animals and green cards.It comes after the High Court ruled that the protocol is lawful and does not breach the Good Friday Agreement or Acts of Union following a judicial review from unionist politicians.
The South Belfast MLA said:
“What we have needed throughout this process is a focus on practical solutions rather than simply rhetoric – so it is wholly welcome that the EU has today delivered solutions. The majority in Northern Ireland did not vote for Brexit, and it is clear that a majority support special arrangements to reflect the unique impacts of Brexit on this place. We didn’t want the Protocol because we didn’t want Brexit – but the responsible and urgent thing to do is make it work.
“We should be applying ourselves to addressing practical challenges, but also maximising opportunities from the Protocol. Despite attempts by the UK Government and certain unionist politicians to play down the potential benefits, it is clear that businesses here and potential investors want to see us maximise the potential of having preferential access to two of the world’s largest markets.
“This positive progress is in contrast to the spin and dead-end rhetoric of permanent protest and anger that followed today’s court judgment on the Protocol. That judgment was clear: the Protocol is lawful and did not make Northern Ireland any less a part of the United Kingdom. As a constitutional nationalist party, we seek constitutional change: but the Protocol isn’t it – the damaging constitutional change for the whole UK is Brexit.
“I would hope that unionist politicians will engage with the solutions offered and avoid threats to political institutions, damage to which helps no one in Northern Ireland.”