Robin Boyd, from Donaghcloney, reached out to the News Letter to express his concerns about the Protocol’s impact on business and civil liberties – citing his passion for gardening as an example.
After Brexit, the protocol was an agreement between the EU and the UK aimed at avoiding EU customs checks at the Irish border. This was done by keeping NI in the EU single market and moving EU controls to NI ports instead. Some NI companies have benefited greatly from retaining free access to the EU market. However, many of those ‘importing’ from the UK immediately struggled with the rise in EU customs paperwork and associated costs – and have expressed concern about their profitability when the EU grace periods and UK administrative support end.
“Not only is the NI Protocol hurting businesses in Northern Ireland, it is affecting our rights as citizens,” Boyd told the News Letter. “The gardening industry is a case in point. My wife Sandra and I, both in our 60’s, have lived in various places in Co Antrim and more recently Co Armagh. Everywhere we have settled we have developed the garden for the benefit of our boys and now our grandchildren. We sourced plants locally and increasingly from the rest of the UK.
“Unfortunately, we are now denied that opportunity. Many suppliers in England, Scotland and Wales are no longer able to ship plants to us in Northern Ireland.” The order form for a major UK supplier, he said, now warns “We cannot ship seeds or plants into the EU countries and Northern Ireland”.
A major gardening magazine, which regularly provides free seed samples to subscribers in the UK, said “but we in Northern Ireland are excluded from this offer”. Another large horticultural business advertising in the gardening press also states: ‘We cannot ship produce to Northern Ireland,’ he adds.
“These are just a few examples of how enthusiastic gardeners in Northern Ireland are being discriminated against because of the NI Protocol. Garden center owners tell the same story about restrictions on shipping garden products to NI. Yet so many world leaders line up to tell us that the NI protocol works. I want to say to everyone, ‘Not for me, mate!'”
“Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Maros Sefcovic, Micheal Martin and even Keir Starmer would all be furious if their rights as citizens and consumers were curtailed like mine. We’ve also not been well served by the press and media in general in NI.” He said TV and newspaper networks “regularly feature companies that have benefited from the NI Protocol—but they only select the stories that we hear must. Has there really been a thorough investigation into the downside of protocol?
“Finally, to those in the civil union movement who are hesitant or afraid to speak out, I would like to say, ‘Find your voice. Your opinions, your concerns, your fears matter. This is a dialogue about our common future. Your views are relevant and important, so voice them before it’s too late.”
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