By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The leaders of Northern Ireland’s four main unionist parties have signed a joint declaration in opposition to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
The declaration is signed by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, UUP leader Doug Beattie, TUV leader Jim Allister and PUP leader Billy Hutchinson.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.
On Ulster Day 2021 unionism stands united in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol. pic.twitter.com/kmJgyNKTAo
— DUP (@duponline) September 28, 2021
Unionists in Northern Ireland have been vehemently opposed to its terms, which see additional checks on goods arriving into the region from the rest of the UK.
The joint declaration says: “We, the undersigned unionist political leaders, affirm our opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, its mechanisms and structures and reaffirm our unalterable position that the protocol must be rejected and replaced by arrangements which fully respect Northern Ireland’s position as a constituent and integral part of the United Kingdom.”
The four leaders have also released a video in which they appear together.
In the video, Mr Donaldson said: “Unionism stands united in opposing the protocol. The Irish Sea border must go.
“It undermines the union and is costing Northern Ireland £850m per year. It’s time for the Government to act.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said: “The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement creates stability here in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Party support that Belfast Agreement.
“The protocol undermines the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Therefore we cannot support that.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “The removal of the protocol is the imperative for anyone who cherishes our rightful place within the United Kingdom and who wishes to oppose the all-Ireland that the protocol is seeking to design.
“Now is the time for all unionists to stand strong and therefore I welcome this declaration of unalterable opposition to this iniquitous protocol.”
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said: “Unionism stands united today against the protocol.
“The British Government tore up the Act of Union and also the Belfast Agreement. In doing this they diluted our Britishness.
“Today we stand strong against the protocol and we call on the British Government to remove the protocol.”
Earlier this month, the DUP threatened to collapse powersharing at Stormont unless their demands on the protocol were met.