Brandon Lewis calls rioting in Northern Ireland, in which 88 police officers were injured, “unacceptable” as the Brexit protocol has heightened tensions
- Brandon Lewis made a statement to MPs on violent scenes in Northern Ireland
- The cabinet minister said the riot, in which 88 police officers were injured, was “unacceptable”.
- These sources of tension are “complex”, but the Brexit Protocol has fueled the tension
Brandon Lewis today condemned “unacceptable” riots in Northern Ireland in which 88 police officers were injured when he warned that the Brexit protocol had fueled tensions.
The cabinet minister said the violence last week was “tragic and deeply worrying” while attacks on officials were “absolutely reprehensible”.
He insisted that the causes were “complex and multifaceted” – pointing out the frustrations and feelings of injustice caused by the pandemic.
However, under pressure from MPs, he admitted that the protocol that Boris Johnson had agreed with the EU was causing maladministration. Loyalists were furious about trade barriers with mainland Britain and ministers struggled to reach an agreement with Brussels to defuse the problems.
Brandon Lewis today condemned “unacceptable” riots in Northern Ireland in which 88 police officers were injured when he warned that the Brexit protocol had fueled tensions
The cabinet minister said the violence last week was “tragic and deeply worrying”. Pictured Belfast on Friday night
In a statement to the Commons, the Northern Ireland Secretary said: “The violence that was observed last week is totally unacceptable. Attacks on police officers are absolutely reprehensible.
“Those involved in this destruction and disorder do not represent the people of Northern Ireland.
“It is tragic and deeply worrying that young people have been drawn into this violence and encouraged, and as a result now have criminal records.
“It can be easy to find a simplistic explanation for the recent disorder, but it is clear that the factors behind it are indeed complex and multifaceted.”
Mr Lewis said that despite the “great strides” made in Northern Ireland over the past two decades, there are “elements of fragility”.
He told MPs: “People are frustrated after a year of coronavirus challenging us all and I realize how frustrating it has been, especially for young people in Northern Ireland who are facing the uncertainty of lifting lockdowns without to have a clear roadmap in Northern Ireland Ireland.
“There is also a perception that rules and restrictions have not been equally enforced in Northern Ireland, and we all know that there are strong political views within and between communities that can conflict with one another.
“I acknowledge that there are concerns about the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol, concerns that overlap with broader issues of national identity and political affiliation, and that this comes at a time of economic uncertainty due to the pandemic.
“Northern Ireland has made great strides over the past two decades, but it is a post-conflict society and elements of fragility remain.”
Louise Haigh, Secretary of Shadow Northern Ireland, said there was “a very deep sense of pain and anger among union and loyalist communities that has been building for months and that cannot be ignored”.
“The Prime Minister promised the people of Northern Ireland that there would be no border with Britain, knowing full well that his Brexit deal would put barriers across the Irish Sea,” she said.
“He made these promises because he knew that economic segregation would be unacceptable to the union community and that the growing political instability we are seeing is rooted in the loss of confidence it causes.
Loyalist rioters were involved in clashes with police officers in north Belfast on Friday evening
Mr Lewis admitted that the protocol that Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday) had agreed with the EU was causing grievances
“Trust is important, it is what the Belfast Good Friday Agreement secured and always upheld. Trust, leadership and partnership are of the utmost importance to find a way forward in Northern Ireland.”
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called on the government to abolish the Northern Ireland Protocol altogether.
He said: “The important thing is that there has been a breach of trust regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol and trade barriers have been put in place between the UK and Northern Ireland that we were told would not and would not have happened. They undermine Northern Ireland’s sense of identity and place in the UK.
What will the Secretary of State do with Northern Ireland’s political parties to address police and judicial issues and to replace this protocol crucially with something better that will fully restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market? ? ‘
Mr. Lewis replied, “We only took unilateral action a few weeks ago to resolve some of the problems and issues that would have made matters even more difficult than I suggested at the time. I think it is very clear now that you were the right action.
“I think through this people can see that we are determined to solve some of the problems and problems there (with) the protocol.”