Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021

Don’t take eye off ball, Boris! Johnson issued Brexit warning as EU tensions boil over

Northern Ireland: Loyalist discusses possibility of conflict

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The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed in the Brexit deal – is designed to avoid customs checks along the Irish border. But, trust was badly damaged in January when the EU moved to block the export of COVID-19 vaccines to Northern Ireland.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol unless an agreement to ease EU red tape is found.

EU Brexit chief Maros Sefcovic raised the prospect of a future trade conflict if an agreement cannot be found in the row over the customs controls.

Tensions across Northern Ireland reached boiling point and the nation was rocked by street violence in April.

However, Emeritus Professor Adrian Guelke has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to focus on other issues causing tensions across Northern Ireland, not just the Protocol.

He told Express.co.uk: “I think the UK Government should be concerned with rising tensions in Northern Ireland but the Protocol is not the only issue by a long way causing problems in Northern Ireland.

“Loyalists have got it into their heads that the police have a grievance towards them.

“There is also a push for a border poll by Nationalists which is upsetting Loyalists because they feel their position is under challenge.

“There are lots of different issues causing concerns in Northern Ireland.”

Professor Guelke also mentioned the collapse of the DUP has also ignited tensions across the region.

Earlier this year, Arlene Foster stepped down as First Minister over issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Edwin Poots initially took over from Ms Foster, however, following an internal party revolt, he also resigned from the position.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is now the leader of the DUP, making him the fifth leader in its 50-year history.

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The DUP is currently under pressure from Loyalists who protest about the Irish Sea Border.

But Sir Jeffrey said the removal of the Protocol is the only path to stable the devolved government.

When discussing Sir Jeffrey, Professor Guelke claimed the new DUP leader has “no interest” in looking for a fight over the Protocol despite being against it.

He said: “I think Donaldson has no interest in pushing things to conflict.

“What he has been saying about the Protocol is he wants the protocol gone but he has moderated the language in terms of he is not threatening some divisive action.

“I think the sense is Donaldson is not looking for a fight over the Protocol.

“He is not wanting to stir up trouble and it is not in his character to want problems in the streets.

“So I think the situation as the new leader of the DUP is to calm the situation down.”

While Northern Ireland saw widespread protests over the Protocol, Professor Guelke claimed the tensions have “somewhat reduced”.

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