Northern Ireland

Published date : 13 April, 2021
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I associate myself with the remarks of both Front Benchers in their condemnation of the violence we have sadly seen. My thoughts are with those injured in the disturbances, and in particular with those in the emergency services who have been working hard to keep their communities safe.

The disorder we have seen in recent days represents, for those of us who grew up with strong memories of the troubles, scenes we thought we had left behind for good. We do not strengthen communities by encouraging criminality and disorder within them. We can all agree how sickening it was to see young children being encouraged in acts of violence by their elders who lived through that cycle of violence themselves.

Moving on from where we are will require a number of things. It will require respect for the law and those who enforce it, whether that is the officers of the PSNI, the leadership of the PSNI or the prosecution service. All must be supported fully in dealing with criminality and maintaining public order in a way that is consistent, fair and proportionate across all sections of Northern Ireland. Above all, it will require leadership, integrity, honesty and respect from politicians. There has, sadly, to date been a dearth of some of those qualities on show in the way that the protocol has been negotiated and implemented. The price being paid for that is sadly all too clear. The protocol was entered into freely by the UK Government and it is here to stay. Surely we can agree that the only route to amending it is through trust and good will on all sides.

The great success of the Good Friday agreement was in ensuring that the symbols of a border in the island of Ireland disappeared. If we can all agree that there is now a trade border, we can surely agree that the symbolism of that matters. One practical step, which I have raised with the Secretary of State before, would be to introduce a realignment of sanitary and phytosanitary checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That would remove some of the more snagging aspects of the current protocol and the difficulties with symbolism that it causes. Will the Secretary of State, in his discussions with all partners in this process, continue discussions on whether that is something we can do to smooth the passage of the protocol? Will he agree to work with other devolved Governments, which that would also impact upon?

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