Unionist anger amid claims UK military movements hindered by Brexit

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Northern Ireland unionists have called for Government intervention amid claims Brexit red tape could hinder the movement of military equipment within the UK.

New Irish Sea shipping arrangements mean the armed forces need to give 15 days notice, complete customs declarations and even inform Nato, in order to take materials from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, according to the Ulster Unionist Party.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie, a decorated Army veteran, said the restrictions were a consequence of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs the movement of goods across the Irish Sea since the Brexit transition period ended.

Under the terms of the protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the single market for goods and continues to apply EU customs rules at its ports and airports.

Doug Beattie
UUP Assembly member Doug Beattie (Niall Carson/PA)

On Friday, Democratic Unionist First Minister Arlene Foster contacted Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to express concern.

The MoD has insisted the protocol arrangements are not limiting its ability to carry out operations in Northern Ireland.

Mr Beattie described the situation as “ludicrous”.

“As of January 1, any movement of materials and equipment from Great Britain will be required to give 15 days notice and complete a customs declarations form,” said Mr Beattie.

“Even more incredibly, to move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland they will have to complete a Nato form that is designed for movement of Nato forces around the globe.

“This shows how ludicrous and unacceptable the outworking of the Northern Ireland Protocol are in practice.

“This should not merely be a Northern Ireland issue but it should be of serious concern for every MP at Westminster, no matter what party they represent.”

Coronavirus – Tue Jan 12, 2021
First Minister Arlene Foster has raised the issue with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Liam McBurney/PA)

“It’s not acceptable that military movements within the United Kingdom should be affected in the way that has been reported,” she said.

“It’s just an example of the hundreds of issues that have been raised and we’ll continue to work through those issues and be focused on each of them.

“However, there needs to be a replacement to this protocol and we need to find a way forward that is sustainable, because what we have at the moment is unworkable.”

Addressing the media in Co Fermanagh, Mrs Foster said the idea of Nato having a say on the movement of military equipment within the UK was “completely outrageous”.

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: “The Northern Ireland Protocol has not placed any limitations on the Ministry of Defence’s ability to conduct operations.”

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