‘EU the real villains!’ Brexiteers launch attack on ‘falsified and misrepresented border

Brexit: Ben Habib claims UK 'clearly isn't sovereign'

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Several hundred people turned out at the Square in Newtownards, Co Down on Friday, for a protest against the Protocol, organised by leading Brexiteers Baroness Hoey and ex-MEP Ben Habib. The Protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules.

 

Northern Ireland also remains part of the EU single market with Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards checks (SPS) made on certain products arriving from the rest of the UK under the arrangements.

But the Protocol has caused significant anger among Unionist politicians across Northern Ireland over fears it creates an Irish Sea border.

Addressing the protest in Newtownards, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib told the crowd: “The real villains in this story are the EU and the Irish Government because they have falsified and misrepresented entirely what the customs border on the island of Ireland would be.

“But I’m afraid that those to whom you have given your allegiance, the Westminster Government, they are the ones who have really forsaken you because they should have stood up to that false narrative.”


Former Labour MP Baroness Kate Hoey claimed the Protocol is “taking away our British identity” and accused the Irish Government of using Northern Ireland as a “weapon”.

She added: “I’m afraid the wining and dining that goes on in Brussels paid off.

“The EU wanted to punish the United Kingdom for daring to leave their club and cynically used the issue of the Irish border and the Belfast Agreement as the weapon.”

Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, who is part of a legal challenge with Mr Habib and Baroness Hoey against the protocol called on the Democratic Unionist Party to effectively collapse Stormont unless the Protocol is abandoned.

Mr Allister said this could happen if new First Minister Paul Givan resigns.

The North Antrim MLA told the crowd: “What do we now need to do? What needs to be done in Stormont is the new DUP leader needs to find a backbone, and he needs to resign as the First Minister.

“He needs to say to the British Prime Minister, there will be no First Minister so long as there is a Protocol.”

He claimed the Protocol was “designed to partition the United Kingdom” and to “annex” Northern Ireland into the EU.

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The MLA also said the EU was “preparing us for what they see as the ultimate outcome of Irish unity”, which was greeted with chants of “never” and “over my dead body” from the crowd.

The demonstration saw five protest parades marching towards the town centre in Newtownards.

Hundreds of protesters waved Union flags and held banners saying “Dublin’s Choice: Peace or Protocol?”, which bore an image of deputy Irish premier Leo Varadkar, as well as “No Irish sea border” and “Enough is enough”.

A statement by Ards and North Down Loyalist Collective, who organised the event, said: “Our platform of four high-profile speakers will send a clear message that the violence-rewarding, Union-dismantling Protocol must go.

“Baroness Hoey, Jim Allister and Ben Habib are currently leading a High Court challenge against the Irish Sea border, and Jamie Bryson separately took the initial step in bringing High Court proceedings in 2019 which were halted pending the ratification of the Withdrawal Act by Parliament.”


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