By Aine Fox, PA
Britain's Conservative Party must act responsibly and stop the “attack” that is under way through a bill to unilaterally scrap parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal, Sinn Féin has said.
The North's Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd said the Northern Ireland Protocol is working for businesses, workers and families.
On Monday, controversial legislation will be given its second reading in the UK parliament, with the House of Commons set to debate the main principles of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and decide whether it can proceed for further consideration.
The UK government has said the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.
The imposition of checks in order to keep an open border with the Republic has angered unionists and DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he hopes the bill gets through the Commons before parliament’s summer recess.
Capitals across the EU bloc reacted with outrage to the plans to override parts of the protocol, which governs trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
The DUP has long opposed the protocol and is refusing to enter the powersharing institutions at Stormont until issues with the post-Brexit settlement for the region are addressed.
Mr O’Dowd said on Friday that efforts to pass the controversial legislation must be stopped, as he appealed to MPs to vote against the bill.
He said he had come from a business event with more than 400 delegates and that people there said the dual access to the EU market and the British market is working for them.
Speaking on the day the Conservatives suffered a double by-election defeat in England, Mr O’Dowd warned that Northern Ireland should not be “collateral damage” as the prime minister’s leadership faces renewed pressure.
He said: “The attack on the protocol through this piece of legislation is an attack on international law. More importantly, it’s an attack on our business community, workers and families who are benefiting from it.
“So it has to stop and stop now, because the collateral damage that’s being caused to our society is of no consequence to Boris Johnson or his possible successor.
“But it does have huge consequences here and at this very late stage, the Tory party is going to have to act responsibly and recognise the democratic reality that the vast majority of MLAs support the protocol and that the protocol is working for businesses, workers and families.”
He echoed Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s comments earlier this month describing the legislation as representing “economic vandalism”.
Mr O’Dowd said: “What Boris Johnson and others plan to do on Monday is economic vandalism and it should be stopped and stopped now.”
He appealed across the benches at Westminster to vote against the bill and “not to be drawn in to the internal fighting in the Tory party”.
Mr Donaldson urged the Tory party to “follow through” on their support for the bill.
He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra: “I would hope that the Conservative Party will follow through on their commitment to support this bill.
“We’ll get it through second reading and then move to the next stage because I think it’s important that this bill progresses quickly through the House of Commons, and we’d like to see it through by summer recess.”