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Border Communities Against Brexit have welcomed the Civic engagement of Michael Gove and the EU’s Maros Sefcovic to understand some of the issues that have arisen with the implementation of the Irish Protocol although they have claimed that the NIO has deliberately excluded BCAB from this Civic engagement.

In a statement the group said "This same NIO has chosen on numerous occasions to ignore Border Communities Against Brexit, has refused a meeting between ourselves and the Secretary of State, even after an assurance by a Senior member of staff over a year ago within the NIO, that a meeting would be granted.

"Then true to form, whenever the EU were seeking community engagement on the Irish Protocol, the NIO again ignores the only Pro Remain campaign group in Ireland, but also the group who’s very community would be at the coal face of Border Checks if changes occurred to the Protocol.

A BCAB protest at the border in 2019. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A BCAB protest at the border in 2019. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"We firmly believe NIO and the Secretary of State have shown institutional bias towards Border Communities; we are a group of people from both side of the Border, from all walks of life, we have met EU Leaders on many occasions, won the EU Citizens Prize in 2017, met scores of Irish Politicians and had the opportunity to speak with senior American politicians."

The statement continues "This institutional bias towards people and communities in Border area’s runs deep within many Government departments, but especially the NIO.

"It is utterly disgraceful decades after the GFA, with all the necessary checks and balances to ensure that all voices are included, the NIO who are supposed to be neutral here, have clearly shown they are most definitely not neutral.

"We must have open and broad civic inclusion by Government, not this discriminatory approach by the NIO."

Concluding the statement adds "The British Government must live up to its commitments in the Protocol, ensure it is fully implemented and protect the staff who are necessary for it’s full implementation, and the Irish Government must continue to stand up for the Protocol.

"If the British Government cannot protect the staff in the North who are operating the Protocol, then the required checks must be removed from Belfast and Larne Ports and instead take place in Liverpool and Stranraer Ports, away from intimidation by factions within Unionism, who from the outset have been keen supporters of Brexit."

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