DUP’s Poots Plans to ‘Strip Away’ Brexit’s Irish Protocol

New Democratic Unionist Party leader Edwin Poots will try to “strip away” parts of the Brexit trade agreement covering Northern Ireland, as tensions in the region intensify.

Poots, 55, was elected leader of the DUP on Friday. Opposition to the Brexit agreement’s Irish protocol, which effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs area and much of the single market, was the key issue in the leadership contest. Tensions in the region, which was racked by decades of violence, are at their highest in years. More than 70 police were injured in rioting last month which was at least partly fueled by Brexit.

“If there are grey areas and opportunities, we will certainly seek to strip away elements of the protocol, but ultimately it needs to be fundamentally changed or removed to take things forward.” the Sunday Life Newspaper cited Poots as saying in an interview. “If there isn’t real significant political progress made in the coming weeks, I would imagine we would be launching judicial proceedings” to have the protocol removed “in the not too distant future,” he added.

The protocol means goods coming from mainland Britain need to be checked before or on entry to the region to ensure they meet the bloc’s rules and standards. Unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the U.K., see it as weakening ties to the union while making business harder.

The new leader reiterated to the Sunday Life that he won’t take part in formal cross-border talks with the Irish government until the protocol is resolved. That process was set up as part of the 1998 peace agreement that ended the years of violence between unionists and forces seeking unification with the Irish Republic. However, he will seek a meeting to “outline what the issues are.” The Irish government has “hugely damaged” relations with Northern Ireland, he said.

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