EU personnel in Northern Ireland must be ‘observers only’ – DUP

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has issued a warning that EU personnel in Northern Ireland must be “observers only”.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove revealed details of the latest agreement between the UK and EU on Wednesday.

He said there would be no EU embassy in Northern Ireland but that Brussels officials would be permitted at border checks in the region once the transition period ended.

Mr Gove also gave assurances around unfettered access to Great Britain for businesses.

The DUP responded urging the UK Government to ensure that EU personnel in Northern Ireland were “not empowered to direct matters”.

The party also voiced concerns about elements of the agreement that were “characterised by grace periods and time-limited derogations”.

“In particular, we will want to continue to lobby the Government to ensure that at the end of the six-month period, Northern Ireland will not be required to switch suppliers away from GB for chilled meats,” the party said in a statement.

“We cannot accept a situation whereby restrictions are placed on the movement of these products to any part of the United Kingdom, in this case Northern Ireland.”

The DUP said that unless arrangements had the support of both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland, they would “ultimately fail”.

“On that basis, it is imperative that on-the-ground implementation does not in any way disadvantage the people of Northern Ireland or our place within the UK market,” the party added.

Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill welcomed the agreement but said she wanted to see the full details.

“It is welcome that the EU will have a permanent presence in the North to monitor the implementation and outworking of the Withdrawal Agreement and Irish Protocol,” she said.

“We hope that this agreement signals that there will be a wider deal but is by no means certain and we will continue our engagements with the British Government and EU in the days ahead.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he hoped the latest development was a sign of progress towards a broader trade deal.

“We now need to see the hard detail. With little over three weeks before the end of the transition period, businesses in the North need to know what their operating environment will be. They cannot keep flying blind,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken blasted a “bad day for Northern Ireland”.

“Despite the smoke and mirrors from the UK Government, what has been agreed does nothing other than kick the can down the road for another three months and create further uncertainty for producers and consumers,” he said.

“We urgently need to hear more than just bluster from the UK Government on how they are truly going to protect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK Internal Market.”

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