And the recently installed Unionist leader has said the time for talking has now passing, adding that it was “time for action”. Brexit Minister Lord David Frost and EU opposite number Maros Sefcovic have been involved in intense discussions this week in a bid to resolve outstanding problems with the protocol, a mechanism for preventing a hard border between Ireland and the north.
The arrangement has angered many within the Unionist community, who see it as having driven a wedge between them and Great Britain by effectively imposing a border down the Irish Sea, with numerous checks currently required on goods travelling to and from Northern Irish ports and those on the mainland.
Mr Poots said: “The engagement between Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic has been described as ‘frank’.
“But more talking is not what Northern Ireland needs. We need the NI Protocol to be removed.”
He stressed: “The Protocol has been a disaster both politically and economically.
“Even the Protocol’s early chief cheerleaders in Northern Ireland who initially called for its ‘rigorous implementation’ are now searching for the reverse gear.”
Referring to the proposed sausage ban, he explained: “Animals with full traceability pose no threat to the single market.
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He said: “It has resulted in 15,000 checks per week, meanwhile we have neither the infrastructure nor staff to meet the EU’s demands.
“The Protocol has failed and has only delivered instability and higher prices for Northern Ireland.
“It is time to remove the internal UK barriers rather than talking about the outworkings of those barriers.”
Mr Poots is set to meet Mr Sefcovic next week.
He added: “If Brussels is deaf to the problems, then our own government must act unilaterally to protect Northern Ireland.”
A UK Government statement issued today after talks between Lord Frost and Mr Sefcovic said: “The UK set out the extensive steps already taken to operate the Protocol, both by the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, and by businesses across the UK.
“The UK made clear its continued commitment to constructive engagement in order to find pragmatic solutions that ensure the Protocol operates in a way that safeguards the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions, minimises its impact on the day-to-day lives of communities in Northern Ireland, and maintains the integrity of the EU’s Single Market.”
The statement added: “The UK will continue to put forward detailed proposals, as we have throughout this year, and looks forward to discussing any proposals the EU may put forward.
There is an urgent need for further discussions in order to make real progress, particularly to avoid disruption to critical supplies such as medicines.”
Finally, it warned: “The UK will continue to work actively to find solutions.
“If solutions cannot be found, the Government will of course continue to consider all options available for safeguarding peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland.”