North insulated from Brexit chaos by Protocol

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While there is anger in Britain over empty shelves, staff shortages and a fuel crisis, the north of Ireland is avoiding almost all the negative effects of Brexit thanks to the special status afforded by the Irish Protocol.

As English tabloids have begun fuming over a ‘winter of discontent’, the London government remains in denial about the dire situation in Britain and the benefits to the Six Counties of the Protocol.

Just 4% of people in Britain believe Brexit is going well, according to a recent survey, while polls here have shown increasing support for the Protocol.

Traders and consumers in the north have benefitted from the dual access provision that enables traders in the Six Counties to freely sell goods in both the British market and the EU single market.

The most obvious effect is in petrol stations, which have suffered from a shortage of truck delivery drivers. In England, long queues and shuttered forecourts have led to fights and confrontations. Even leading Brexit supporter Nigel Farage became caught up in drivers’ rage after he failed to purchase petrol after seven attempts.

But in the north of Ireland, haulage firms have said there is “less pressure” due to the availability of cross-border supplies.

Foreign firms have also been making plans for investment in the North at double the rate of recent years, according to a report by the economic development agency, Invest NI. And firms who had expressed fears over the Protocol’s operation, such as Marks & Spencer, have also now changed their minds and are looking to expand in the North.

Sinn Féin junior minister Declan Kearney said much of the reports in the mainstream media over the post-Brexit trading mechanism were “fake news”.

Mr Kearney also criticised the DUP’s deepening boycott of north-south political structures over the Protocol, which they say creates an ‘Irish Sea Border’.

After the latest DUP no-show at a cross-border political meeting this week, Sinn Féin is now seeking legal advice on Stormont’s Ministerial Code.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said non-engagement in the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) is a “serious failure to comply with the law”.

Ms Hargey said the DUP cannot “cherry-pick” what institutions of the Good Friday Agreement it participates in after a meeting on Friday morning had to be cancelled due to a DUP no show.

“We must be clear that when the political institutions were restored through the New Decade, New Approach agreement last January, it was all of the institutions, not some,” she said.

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