Andrew Marr clashes with Sefcovic over Northern Ireland
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Mr Habib will on Wednesday learn whether his challenge to the Protocol has been successful when the High Court of Northern Ireland announces its verdict after a judicial review in the legality of rules which critics claim have resulted in a border down the Irish Sea. In the meantime Mr Sefvovic tried to put a positive spin on the arrangements as he addressed a committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, claiming the Protocol made it a “unique place to invest”.
Maros Sefcovic has just confirmed, yet again, how duplicitous the EU is
However, Mr Habib was having none of it, telling Express.co.uk: “Maros Sefcovic has just confirmed, yet again, how duplicitous the EU is.
“Having spent four years insisting the UK sign up to a level playing field, he is now trying to sell the Northern Ireland Protocol on the basis that it gives Northern Ireland an unfair trading advantage.”
Mr Habib said: “That is vintage EU. Insist on a rules-based system of equality for all until doing so no longer suits its political aims.
“Northern Ireland is indeed in the intersection of two customs’ unions but its biggest trading partner is Great Britain, not the EU.
“It exports some £13billion a year to GB and only £2billion a year to the EU.”
The “mountain to climb” to make up for the detrimental impact of the Protocol far exceeded any immediate advantage, he claimed.
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Mr Habib added: “I was aware of the theoretical advantage of being in two customs unions immediately on the Protocol being announced but it takes a little more consideration than that fact alone to know what the EU is up to.
“The EU is not seeking Northern Ireland’s prosperity. It is merely seeking a switch in Northern Ireland’s trading patterns.
“It wants to use the Protocol to drive trade away from GB, towards Ireland. In doing so it would cement in the annexation of Northern Ireland.”
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He warned: “Do not be fooled by Sefcovic’s faux promises of trading advantages.
“If Northern Ireland were ever unfairly to prosper at the expense of the EU, the EU would shut down that advantage immediately citing its own competition laws.
“The Protocol is an instrument to dismember the UK, not an instrument for the prosperity of Northern Ireland.”
Mr Sefcovic told MLAs he had been “gravely concerned at negative rhetoric about the protocol”, insisting it was “an instrument to protect peace and stability”.
He claimed the Protocol offered Northern Ireland free access to twin markets that, when combined, represented the potentially the biggest purchasing power in the world.
Mr Sefcovic explained: “The fact that Northern Ireland would be in this unique situation, having this ample access to both markets of the UK and the EU, this we should not forget is access to 500 million potential customers with what might be the biggest purchasing power in the world,” he told Stormont MLAs.
“So these are the two markets which have no comparative parallel in the world.
“Not only the 500 million but the strength of the purchasing power.
“The fact is the EU is in most cases the number one or number two trading partner for all economies, we are definitely number one or number two in all markets if it comes for foreign direct investment and the same applies to the destinations.
“So I think it’s a huge advantage that Northern Ireland has access to both markets cost-free, which I think offers unique opportunities for different business models, for distribution hubs and for all the projects for the investment which have been already gathered up in the pipeline of projects by Invest Northern Ireland.”
The EU’s approach was based on “pragmatism, stability, and constructive engagement”, Mr Sefcovic insisted.
He said: “My goal has always been, and continues to be, to move decisively on to a result-oriented path to permanent solutions, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland and for peace and stability.”
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