Brexit: Arlene Foster says she is ‘opposed’ to the trade deal
The petition was launched against a backdrop of rising tension as a result of checks being made on goods passing to and from Great Britain, which critics claim amounts to the imposition of a border down the Irish Sea. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is among those who have already added their names, with the current total passing 85,000 just after 9am today, and should hit six figures by the end of the morning.
However, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is on record as saying there is no chance the arrangement will be ditched, with any such move certain to be highly controversial.
The petition, which was started on the UK Government’s website by DUP leader Mrs Foster on August 4, has picked up speed dramatically since the EU triggered Article 16 on Friday, blocking imports of coronavirus vaccine into Northern Ireland, before reversing its decision hours later.
Entitled ‘Trigger Article 16. We want unfettered GB-NI Trade’ in reference to the mechanism by which the rules can be suspended, it states: “Her Majesty’s Government must immediately remove any impediment or barrier to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom.
Arlene Foster’s petition is well on its way to 100,000 signatures
Nigel Farage is among those who have added their names
“After just one month, Northern Ireland is suffering real economic and societal difficulties as a consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol operating and creating new barriers to unfettered trade within the United Kingdom and disrupting supply lines of goods to Northern Ireland.
“The Government should use all the powers it has to move urgently to protect UK trade and to ensure all UK goods and produce can freely flow to and from every part of the United Kingdom.”
Speaking yesterday, Mrs Foster appealed for calm amid the row over post-Brexit trade disruption as the region’s police chief warned people to step back from the brink of violence.
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Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster in Belfast last year
Inspections on animal-based produce arriving from Great Britain, required by the Protocol, are currently suspended amid fears for the safety of staff.
Police have blamed menacing graffiti on disgruntled individuals and small groups and have made clear there is no evidence of wider paramilitary involvement in threats.
Checks on animal-based produce remained suspended yesterday.
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Micheal Martin, Ireland’s Taoiseach
Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Foreign Minister, said it was “unrealistic” to think the Protocol would be scrapped
Mrs Foster said: “We will have to find a way forward, that’ll have to be found quickly because the disruption is causing community tensions and of course we do want everyone to stay calm and we do want people to act through constitutional politics but if they’re being ignored then they become more angry and even more tense.”
South of the border, Taoiseach Micheal Martin called for a common sense pragmatic approach.
He told RTE: “There are areas where we can fine tune that protocol, I believe, let’s remember it’s only about four weeks in operation.
Arrangements for Ireland’s border with Northern Ireland remain controversial
“We do need to take a common sense pragmatic approach to it, to iron out some of these and issues in terms of its implementation.”
However, Mr Coveney has said it is “unrealistic” to suggest the arrangement, which is the mainstay of the Brexit withdrawal deal, could be ditched altogether.
Boris Johnson has warned he would consider suspending elements of the protocol if the issues causing trade disruption are not addressed.
Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Government and European Commission are due to hold further talks aimed at finding solutions next week.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has proposed extending of a series of grace periods which are currently in operation, and which limit the level of bureaucracy associated with the protocol.
The Government wants to extend these exemption periods, some of which are due to expire at the end of March, to January 2023 in order to provide space to find more permanent solutions.
Questioned about the possibility of extensions on Thursday, European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said it would be for the Joint UK/EU committee on the functioning of the protocol to “see what is the way forward”.