Blog: ‘Double hit for us!’ Brexit row with EU threatens Northern Ireland economy – Express

This week, a think tank has claimed that the Northern Ireland protocol has given the region an economic boost. According to The National Institute for Economic and Social Research, Northern Ireland’s economic performance has outperformed the UK since 2019. However, they also warned that the boost was unlikely to be sustained unless further investment is made in Northern Ireland. The protocol has become one of the most divisive issues related to Brexit in recent years.

Under the policy, goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland have to undergo checks because Northern Ireland remains in the EU’s single market.

But the UK Government wants to change the protocol because it has disrupted the movement of goods to Northern Ireland from Great Britain, and unionists believe it cuts the region off from the rest of the UK.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to use the Northern Ireland protocol bill to unilaterally override the agreement – the EU has threatened legal action in response.

Last week, one manufacturing expert in Northern Ireland also warned the bill could cause a “double hit” to trade in Northern Ireland.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, told CNBC that he has concerns over how the bill could be implemented.

He added: “We’re potentially in a worse position than no-deal if the UK and the EU don’t find an agreement in the coming weeks and months, it’s not just no deal but it’s no deal plus a trade war.

“That will be hugely damaging not only to Northern Ireland but to the whole of the U.K. and the EU, which will be a double hit for us.”

While the UK will see a new leader in September – Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak – it appears the Government’s approach to the EU and Northern Ireland won’t change.

Both Tory leadership candidates have said they support the bill and will continue where Mr Johnson left off.

Ms Truss said on Monday as a hustings: “I think we’ve learned from history that there’s only one thing that the EU understands, and that is strength.”

The Telegraph reported this week that figures in the EU would prefer to negotiate with Mr Sunak instead of Ms Truss in Brexit talks.

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Responding to Ms Truss’ comments earlier this week, France’s former Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau responded: “There is one thing Liz Truss doesn’t seem to understand and that is the EU.”

Neale Richmond, an Irish MP, hit out at Ms Truss’ “tiresome posturing to the base” and “bellicose rhetoric”, adding it was “utterly divorced” from reality.

The Northern Ireland protocol is also dividing the Tory party.

Brandon Lewis, the ex-Northern Ireland secretary, claimed Mr Sunak resisted efforts to override the protocol “to keep the EU happy”.

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After Mr Sunak expressed support for the Northern Ireland protocol bill, Mr Lewis told the Telegraph: “It’s good to see him coming around to see that that is the way forward, because that doesn’t quite reflect the experience I’ve had of the Treasury in the last year and a half.

“The Treasury in my experience seems to want to try and keep the EU happy, when I’ve always felt our focus should be on working to deliver for the people of the United Kingdom and do what’s right by them as their sovereign Government.

“The concern has always been around, for the Treasury, ‘what will be the EU’s reaction’, rather than ‘how do we get this to work, and how do we fix this problem that is a problem for the UK?’”

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