‘It’s a bit rich’: Emily Maitlis tells DUP MP his position on Northern Ireland protocol ‘extraordinary’

‘It is arguably your political incompetence that got you here,’ Newsnight presenter suggests

Adam Forrest
Thursday 11 March 2021 11:04 GMT
Emily Maitlis tells DUP MP protocol position is ‘extraordinary’

BBC presenter Emily Maitlis clashed with the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson after telling him his party’s position on the Northern Ireland protocol was “extraordinary”.

The Newsnight host challenged the unionist MP on whether his complaints about trading disruption resulting from an Irish Sea border was “a bit rich”, given the DUP’s insistence on a hard Brexit.

The unionist party – which gave the Tories a nominal majority in the Commons between 2017 and 2019 – remained staunch objectors to the idea of the UK leaving the EU but staying part of a customs union.

Ms Maitlis said: “Sammy, it’s a bit rich isn’t it? You held the balance of power at Westminster in the UK for two years and you constantly voted against the one solution on the table that kept Northern Ireland in Great Britain’s orbit.

“So to turn round and say you don’t like the next thing, when it is your, arguably, political incompetence that got you here, is extraordinary.”

Mr Wilson shot back: “That’s not right – we voted against [Theresa] May’s deal because it did not, first of all, deliver Brexit. It would have kept the United Kingdom in the single market and customs union.”

The MP claimed the former prime minister’s withdrawal agreement – which contained a backstop so the whole of the UK would enter a customs territory with the EU in the event no final trade agreement could be done – would have been a “far worse” for Northern Ireland.

Mr Wilson, a firebrand unionist, has previously called for “guerrilla warfare” against the protocol, saying: “We will look to see every opportunity there is to attack the protocol to ensure it is destroyed.”

It comes as the EU said it would move forward with legal action against the UK in the coming days, claiming Boris Johnson’s government had “violated” agreed protocol arrangements.

The warning follows Downing Street’s unilateral decision to extend grace period exemptions on some checks on good coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

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