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Protocol legislation ‘not very respectful’ to British people – Varadkar

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Damien Storan/PA)
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar (Damien Storan/PA)

Ireland’s deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has said the British Government’s intention to publish legislation that would disapply parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol is “not very respectful” to the British people.

Speaking on RTE Radio, minister for enterprise Mr Varadkar said that 59 of the Stormont Assembly’s 90 MLAs do not want to disapply the protocol, and the British public voted for the Brexit deal that is currently in operation, which includes the protocol.

He said: “This departure is not very respectful of the British people either because they voted for this in an election.

“They must understand what the consequences are for the Union.

“If they keep trying to impose on Northern Ireland things that Northern Ireland doesn’t want, that drives more people towards nationalism and away from support for the Union. And it just seems a bit puzzling.”

“Any modification of the protocol we can discuss,” Mr Varadkar added, but not the removal of it entirely.

He said a trusted trader system “is a possibility”, but added that there are “risks” to that proposal.

The Tanaiste said: “On the up side, it would allow more products going to Northern Ireland from Britain without any checks and I think that would help resolve some of the objections from the unionist community, but there is a risk, of course, of products going south. That’s something we’d have to bear in mind.”

Referencing chlorinated chicken from Thailand or beef from Brazil being imported to the UK, Mr Varadkar continued: “Is this something that the Ulster Farmers’ Union actually wants, is this something that the DUP actually wants, could this be a repeat of the Brexit moment where people in Northern Ireland who wanted Brexit maybe didn’t understand what the consequences were.”

On whether the EU would still stand by Ireland, he said: “The European Union works on solidarity, works on the basis of the rule of law.

“I don’t think that the European Union would ever try to pressure us to in some way bear the consequences of the bad behaviour of the British Government.

“Not because that’s out of a love for Ireland, as such, but that in itself would undermine the European Union.”

When asked about EU retaliation to the protocol legislation, Mr Varadkar said the UK Government has not taken any action yet, adding that the UK would have to “do something” for the EU to take retaliatory action.