Loyalists in East Belfast and Northern Ireland’s “ghettos” “have no idea” of the post-Brexit protocol, and see it as a “Southern trick” to create a united Ireland, said one. old taoiseach.
Bertie Ahern told a virtual Brexit conference in Dublin that resolving the issue of political identity in the protocol dispute was “much more difficult” than trade issues.
He said people in loyalist parts of Northern Ireland did not understand the protocol or see it as a business issue, but as “a route to take over by the Dublin government”.
“In East Belfast and in the ghettos – and in the areas where you might have problems – people have no idea of the protocol, not a clue. “
Loyalists viewed the post-Brexit arrangements as “a Southern trick to move the border across the island and lower it into the Irish Sea as a Dublin trap.”
East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson last night criticized Mr Ahern for associating east Belfast with a ghetto and said the suggestion that loyalists were unable to understand protocol was “Humiliating and degrading”. He asked the old taoiseach to apologize.
Mr Ahern’s comments preceded a meeting Friday between European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic and UK Brexit Minister David Frost to assess progress in negotiations towards a deal on simplification of trade rules on goods shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The EU and the UK are trying to resolve a dispute over the protocol, arrangements agreed in 2019 that aimed to prevent Brexit from creating a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Trade unionists argue the protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the UK, while Boris Johnson’s government has threatened to invoke Article 16 and unilaterally suspend parts of the deal.
Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said it was “deeply disappointing” that the UK government showed no “mutual willingness to compromise” after the EU offered “a meaningful compromise” to reduce checks with new ones proposals last month.
Lord Frost on Thursday dismissed reports that he was softening his approach to the talks, telling the House of Lords he could trigger Article 16 at any time.
He also rejected speculation that he would invoke the section in the most limited way to extend the current grace periods on the rules.