A Co. Armagh councillor has hit out at the deal agreed by the DUP to return to the Stormont Assembly, saying the party has fallen “miserably short” in seven key areas.
The TUV’s Keith Ratcliffe, who represents the Cusher DEA on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, was speaking days after the restoration of devolved government at Stormont, which saw the DUP ending their two-year boycott of the institutions after signing up to a new ‘Safeguarding the Union’ deal with the UK government.
He said: “With all the spin which has been going on in recent days and frankly the outright lies which have been told over the past 48 hours it is important to now look at what the legislation actually says and what it does not say. Even Lord Dodds has said that the deal doesn’t come anywhere close to solving our sovereignty.
“Now that the detail of the deal can be examined the following are indisputable facts: Northern Ireland continues to be treated as EU territory; Customs posts continue to be built at our ports to checks goods coming from GB, including all raw materials for Northern Ireland manufacturing and processing; EU laws by the hundred continue to apply unabated in Northern Ireland while ECJ oversight is untouched, with ministers required by law to implement these foreign laws we don’t make and can’t change.
“To use the ‘green lane’ you still must belong to a Trusted Trader Scheme to trade in your own country and complete paperwork; Articles 6 of the Act(s) of Union remains in suspension; Not one word of the Protocol has changed nor has any EU law been disapplied; Anyone returning to the Executive under this deal will do so as a Protocol implementor.
“We have heard much about the DUP’s Seven Tests. We now know that it has fallen miserably short in seven key areas.”
Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has said however that this is “not the time for unionist disunity or infighting”, adding instead that it’s a time for “renewed focus on the Union and making Northern Ireland work”.
Commenting on the recent deal announcement he said: “I am very pleased to see the most problematic aspects fully dealt with by the Safeguarding the Union command paper. That is an important development.”
Conceding that the DUP had not secured “every single thing” they asked for, Mr Irwin stated however that “substantial progress” had been made towards his party’s seven tests.
He continued: “”Legal changes to the Windsor Framework have been secured and there will now be no routine checks on internal trade moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We were absolutely right to set the bar high. This means the negotiations have achieved much more than even I thought was possible and I thank our Party Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and his team for these relentless efforts.
“Important victories such as restoring our place within the UK internal market, removing checks for goods moving within the UK, new legal and practical protections for the Acts of Union, ending Northern Ireland automatically following future EU law, abolishing the UK duty to have regard to an ‘all-island’ economy and prohibiting future treaties with the EU that harm our place within the UK internal market, are just some of the gains made during our intensive negotiations.
“I recall on countless occasions when the highest ranked officials in Europe and indeed the Republic of Ireland said that no further negotiating would take place. I also listened to other parties such as Alliance, Sinn Fein, and the SDLP make the case for the ‘rigorous implementation’ of the Northern Ireland protocol. They repeatedly lambasted my party for the stand we maintained on getting the best outcome for Northern Ireland using the only lever available – the suspension of the Executive.
“The fact that my Party has had to go it alone in these negotiations and strongly and firmly make the case for wide ranging change – that ultimately and vitally benefits every single person in Northern Ireland – shows the other parties got it fundamentally wrong.”
Mr Irwin added that the “vast majority” of people in Northern Ireland wish to see functioning devolution and that the outcome of this deal provides a “very firm basis” for progress.
He concluded: “I know from speaking with many people over the past few days and indeed for the past couple of years, there is a vital requirement for Northern Ireland, on a global scale and within a strengthened Union, to be seen to succeed. Indeed a successful Northern Ireland only further solidifies, strengthens and cements our place within the United Kingdom.
“I encourage people to take time and read the deal before jumping to conclusions and I know when they read it objectively they will find, as I did, much to be positive about. This is not a time for Unionist disunity or infighting it is a time for renewed focus on the Union and making Northern Ireland work. There are of course challenges ahead and I stand ready to play my part in making Northern Ireland a success for many years to come.”