The new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) says maintaining a Brexit border in the Irish Sea is “playing fast and loose with the peace process”.
In his first interview since his election, Edwin Poots called on the British government to “go it alone” if necessary and scrap the controversial Protocol.
When it is fully implemented later this year, he claimed there would 15,000 checks on goods weekly, “having an impact on every home in Northern Ireland“.
He said: “They are playing fast and loose with the peace process and that is hugely regrettable.
“They are playing fast and with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and that is something which they are co-guarantors for.
Mr Poots, who will formally succeed Arlene Foster when his election is ratified next week, is urging the UK and EU to reverse the arrangement.
He said: “We need to get to a circumstance where I’m sure the European Union don’t really want to do harm to the people of Northern Ireland and recognise with the UK government that they need to draw back.
“If not, we’ll be calling on the UK government to go it alone,” he warned.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has warned that the UK could take unilateral action over the Protocol because of concerns about violence in Northern Ireland.
He urged the European Union to help find new solutions to end border checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, which he said make “no sense”.
The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) said it would be “laughable were the consequences not so grave” that Lord Frost is “virtually disowning a deal he personally negotiated”.
The party’s Brexit spokesman, Matthew O’Toole said: “Northern Ireland is not a plaything in a petty grudge contest with the EU for Brexiters like Lord Frost.”
Asked if he was conceding that the DUP made the wrong call in opposing Theresa May’s softer Brexit, Mr Poots replied: “We couldn’t have delivered that for Theresa May. That was something that she lost for herself in Westminster.”
“The DUP, whether we had supported it or were against it, it wasn’t going through,” he added.
Mr Poots has decided not to become first minister for Northern Ireland but will nominate another DUP member of the Stormont Assembly to succeed Arlene Foster.
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