Former Stormont first minister Peter Robinson has accused the EU of “irrational political prejudice” and warned that it must “go back to the drawing board” over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The ex-DUP leader described reforms to the post-Brexit arrangements outlined by European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic on Wednesday as an “upgrade” but insisted “much more movement will be required” to bring unionists on board.
He suggested triggering the contentious Article 16 of the protocol – which allows the EU or UK to unilaterally suspend aspects of its operations if either side considers them to be causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” – may be necessary “to achieve that goal”.
Mr Robinson also accuses the SDLP, Alliance and Sinn Féin of a “grovelling endorsement” of the EU’s proposed reforms, which would scrap most checks on goods moving between Britain and the North.
The de facto Irish Sea border was erected under the protocol, agreed by London and Brussels, to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and protect the EU single market after the UK pulled out of the bloc.
“What gets me most is the irrational political prejudice and overbearing haughtiness of the EU, who think that it is a greater priority to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland than between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom of which we are part,” Mr Robinson wrote in his weekly column for The Newsletter.
Favoured by nationalists
He alleged that Mr Sefcovic was only interested in protecting gains from the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement which are favoured by nationalists. The 1998 peace deal was “damaging” and “it is heresy for any unionist, especially with the benefit of hindsight, to praise” it, he wrote.
Mr Robinson said the agreement “threw the jail gates open for terrorists to flood out, destroyed the RUC, allowed Sinn Féin into government while republicans held on to their bombs and guns, continued murdering, relentlessly persisted with their criminality, while refusing to support the police or recognise the authority of the courts”.
He said he was “unimpressed” by the SDLP, Sinn Féin