Despite growing criticism of the protocol among trade unionists, which led to violent clashes between protesters and police earlier this year, the EU continues to insist on the implementation of the provisions set out in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Author and historian Ruth Dudley Edwards has suggested the bloc’s stubbornness was part of its plan to send a strong message to one of the 27 member states considering following in Britain’s footsteps and leaving the club .

Writing in The Telegraph, she said that “there is a perception among loyal British citizens that the protocol is being used by Irish nationalists as a path to constitutional destruction, and by the Brussels establishment as such a harsh weapon of punishment. that it will terrify the restive. EU members to submit by convincing them that leaving the EU can only lead to disaster. “

Last week Downing Street hit back at European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after showing a “disappointing” lack of understanding of the anger in communities across the six counties.

The EU chief reiterated her offer to find “practical solutions” to the problems arising from the protocol – but remained firm on the need to carry out checks on goods entering from Britain.

Loyalists argue that the introduction of a border into the Irish Sea effectively cuts Northern Ireland off from the rest of the UK.

Ms Dudley Edwards warned of the growing threat of violence from pro-Union communities in the six counties.

She said the post-Brexit arrangement “has convinced extremes of loyalty that only the threat of violence will get rid of it.”

She added: “At the moment, they are limited to street protests.”

Mrs von der Leyen said last week that the protocol remains the “only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the European Union’s single market”.

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The spokesperson said it was the UK and UK’s responsibility to find a “pragmatic” solution to the problems that have emerged in the six counties since the start of the year.

They added: ‘The Protocol is built on the support of all communities in Northern Ireland, so it is disappointing that the President of the Commission has not further recognized the impact that the current operation of the Protocol is having in Northern Ireland. North.

“While the EU prioritizes single market protection and treats the regulatory border as if it were like any other EU external border, our goal remains to protect the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday ) in all its dimensions ”.

The protocol is a key part of the withdrawal agreement signed by Boris Johnson and the EU bosses.

The deal means that Northern Ireland effectively remained in the EU’s single goods market after the Brexit transition period expired on December 31.

Trade unionists have expressed their anger at the checks carried out on goods imported into the ports of Belfast and Larne.

They fear the changes will cause Northern Ireland to distance itself from the rest of the UK, which could pave the way for Irish reunification.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Portadown, County Armagh on Saturday to demand the protocol be lifted.

A speaker who addressed the crowd accused the Prime Minister of “betraying the Union”.

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