Sefcovic and Frost invited to give evidence to Stormont committee

The vice president of the European Commission and the UK’s Brexit minister have been invited to address a Northern Ireland Assembly committee.

Members of Stormont’s Executive Office oversight committee agreed on Wednesday to invite Maros Sefcovic and Lord Frost to address them.

Committee chairman Colin McGrath said they are being asked to give evidence on the impact of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Colin McGrath said he has been concerned by ‘rhetoric’ from the UK Government (NIAssembly/PA)
Colin McGrath said he has been concerned by ‘rhetoric’ from the UK Government (NIAssembly/PA)

The Protocol divides opinion in Northern Ireland where the largest party, the DUP, is urging that it be scrapped.

Unionists and loyalists regard the rules of the Protocol, which includes additional checks on goods arriving at ports from Great Britain, as a “border down the Irish Sea”.

Anger at what is regarded as separation from the rest of the United Kingdom has sparked protests by loyalists across Northern Ireland.

Some of the protests descended into violence and attacks on police earlier this year, although more recent demonstrations have been peaceful.

Northern Ireland unrest
Loyalist protesters during further unrest on Lanark Way in Belfast in April (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr McGrath said the ongoing negotiations between the European Commission and the UK Government will have a “significant impact” on Northern Ireland’s economy and political stability.

“It is crucial, therefore, that those involved at the most senior level engage with the Northern Ireland Assembly Committee responsible for these matters,” he said.

“It is particularly important for those who continue to use Northern Ireland as a pawn to advance political grudges to sit down and front up with our committee.

“I have been deeply concerned about the rising rhetoric from the British Government over the course of the last number of weeks. Those who co-authored the Protocol cannot now distance themselves from its outworking.

“There are practical issues that need to be resolved, that means constructive engagement from both London and Brussels, but fundamentally the Protocol offers Northern Ireland a competitive advantage that we are not using to the benefit of local people and businesses.”