United Kingdom

Ministers meet NI loyalist paramilitaries as they seek to solve post-Brexit border problems

Senior ministers from Boris Johnson's Government met with representatives of loyalist paramilitaries during a visit to Northern Ireland, it was revealed today.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis met a delegation from the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) on Monday to discuss Brexit concerns.

The meeting, which is sure to raise eyebrows, came comes amid continued disputes over Northern Ireland's post-Brexit arrangements.

The problems with the border under the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed with Brussels in December sparked loyalist violence in recent weeks that left several police officers injured. 

Downing Street did not deny the meeting took place, with the Prime Minister's official spokesman saying it was important to 'engage widely' with communities in Northern Ireland. 

'The UK Government regularly meets with groups and individuals from across all parts of the community and it is important we hear a diverse range of views,' he told reporters.

'We are going to continue to engage widely to ensure that the UK Government is able to meet its objectives in Northern Ireland.'

The problems with the border under the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed with Brussels in December sparked loyalist violence in recent weeks that left several police officers injured.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis met a delegation from the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) on Monday to discuss Brexit concerns.

The protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules, effectively creating a barrier with Great Britain.

Lord Frost has urged the European Union to take a 'common sense, risk-based approach' to the Northern Ireland Protocol, warning that the current way it is currently operating was not sustainable.

The protocol, which was incorporated into the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, has left Northern Ireland tied to a range of EU customs and regulatory rules, effectively creating a barrier with Great Britain.

In a statement the LCC confirmed a 'small delegation' of its members met the ministers on Monday.

'The delegation emphasised the need for significant change to the NI protocol to bring it back into consistency with the Belfast Agreement and to remove the clear change in the status of Northern Ireland that has occurred due to the imposition of the protocol.

'Members advised Lord Frost of the efforts they had to make to try and calm the wider unionist community and appealed to him to ensure that the Prime Minister honoured his commitments to seek, and if necessary unilaterally legislate, to reach an agreement on a workable alternative.'

The LCC is also seeking a meeting with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic 'to ensure that he understands how the Belfast Agreement has been breached by the Protocol'.

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