Boris Johnson “squandered” Unionists’ trust by U-turning on his pledge not to create a trade border down the Irish Sea, MPs heard today.
The Prime Minister “must face up to the consequences of his own actions”, Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louise Haigh told the Commons.
MPs held an emergency debate following recent violence in the province where rioters hurled fireworks, petrol bombs and stones at police.
A bus was hijacked and torched as trouble flared near peace walls dividing Nationalist and Loyalist communities.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said 88 officers had been injured, 18 people arrested and 15 charged.
Unionist and Loyalist fury has been fuelled by anger at the Northern Ireland Protocol, imposed as part of the Government’s Brexit deal.
It creates a trade barrier down the Irish Sea, and means checks take place on some goods moving from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland.
Brussels insisted on the arrangement to protect the EU Single Market, amid fears products sent from Britain to Northern Ireland could then be exported over the 310-mile frontier separating the province from the Republic – the UK and EU’s only land border.
Mr Lewis insisted factors behind the disorder were “complex and multifaceted”.
But he added: “I recognise that there are concerns about the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol, concerns which overlap with wider questions about national identity and political allegiance, and that comes at a time of economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.”
Ms Haigh highlighted a “very deep sense of hurt and anger amongst the Unionist and Loyalist communities which has been building for months and which must not be ignored”.
She said: “The Prime Minister made promises to the people of Northern Ireland that there would be no border with Great Britain, knowing full well his Brexit deal would introduce barriers across the Irish Sea.
“He made those promises because he knew economic separation would be unacceptable to the Unionist community.
“The growing political instability we are seeing has its roots in the loss of trust that this caused.
“Trust matters … The Prime Minister owes it to the people of Northern Ireland to restore the trust he has squandered.
“He’s not a casual observer to these events.”
She urged the PM to “step up and urgently convene talks” with political leaders in the province.
DUP Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the Irish Sea border marked a “breach of trust”.
It “created barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland that we were told would not happen and have happened”, he said.
“They undermine the sense of identity and the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood attacked a “lack of culpability” from the Government, adding: “They haven’t been honest with the Unionist population in Northern Ireland.”
Mr Lewis insisted the PM had been “involved not just in the last few days but consistently throughout this process, and has been very clear about our determination … to ensure that we do deliver an outcome that means that those products do flow in a flexible manner”.
He also signalled a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference may take place to tackle the crisis.
But he stressed policing, law and order was devolved to the province.
Earlier, Former Foreign Secretary Lord Hague suggested that Northern Ireland “was a kind of irritating detail” for Brexiteers in the run-up to the 2016 vote.
“It was an inconvenient detail, that it could easily create instability in Northern Ireland if Brexit went ahead,” he told Times Radio.
“Certainly at the time of the referendum, it was kind of brushed aside.”