The leader of the DUP, Edwin Poots, has reiterated his wish to remove the Northern Ireland Protocol, and all checks on goods from the UK to Northern Ireland in a BBC interview this weekend.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, he said: “We really need to ditch the protocol and ditch these checks because they are hugely damaging to the lowest paid workers.”

Poots – NI used as ‘plaything’

He said that Northern Ireland was being used as a “plaything” by the Europe Union because of Brexit, and that the UK Government had the grounds to trigger Article 16 due to “economic and societal damage” that are evident currently.

Mr Poots also said while the European Commission had “put their heart and soul into winning peace in Northern Ireland” over the years, they currently ‘don’t seem to care for the peace process.

“That really needs to change,” he said.

Total commitment

But vice-president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, who was also invited to appear on the BBC show, rejected the claims put forward by the DUP leader.

“We really do our utmost to make sure we demonstrate our total commitment to the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and therefore we’ve been looking, for four years, for the best solution to the very sensitive situation in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“For us and the UK Government, the response was very clear that it was the protocol,” he said.

“I think that now, what we should do is to focus on the policies and politics that unite rather than divide us.”

Conflict

The DUP leader has previously stated that this situation will “inevitably lead to significant conflict” with the EU, and he has accused the Government in the Republic of Ireland of not being a friend to Northern Ireland, due to its support of goods checks from the UK into the north.