Now will the EU listen? DUP blocks Sinn Fein grab for power – as Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland for crunch talks
Yesterday, the DUP blocked the election of a Speaker in protest at the post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, leaving the Stormont government – now dominated by Sinn Fein – unable to function.
Mr Johnson is poised to override the hated protocol within days to try to resolve the crisis, after Brussels ruled out renegotiating.
The Government has drawn up legislation to unilaterally suspend all border checks on goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, a move sanctioned by the Attorney General.
DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson with party colleagues, speaking at the podium in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont before entering the Assembly Chamber to sign the Roll of Membership
Mr Johnson told the Daily Mail: ‘The Good Friday Agreement, the peace process, relies on a cross community system of government in which there is a collection of views around the table. It’s a very good system. But it’s a balanced system.
‘The problem with the current situation is that the Ulster unionists simply won’t go back in now. I’ve got to think about, as Prime Minister of the UK, my top priority is the Good Friday peace process, the balance in Northern Ireland, restoring government, that is my top priority.
‘And I think legally, politically, morally, that’s what we’ve got to focus on. There is the issue of the protocol. We’re going to have to fix it. And I think we can certainly fix it in a way that is in there that protects the EU single market totally, but stops totally unnecessary barriers to trade.’
Asked if he was bluffing about overriding the agreement, he said: ‘I’m certainly not bluffing in my concern about Stormont and where we need to go. We need to get it back up and running.’
Boris Johnson is set to visit Northern Ireland on Monday for crunch talks to resolve the power sharing crisis, and warned that he was ‘not bluffing’ over his threats to rip up the protocol
The protocol was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
But unionists have been pushing for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.
Mr Johnson’s trip was announced by Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader at Stormont, who said that the DUP had ‘punished the electorate’ by boycotting the election of a Speaker.
Mr Johnson’s trip was announced by Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader at Stormont, who said that the DUP had ‘punished the electorate’ by boycotting the election of a Speaker
But Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, insisted that the party’s actions were designed to send a ‘clear message’ to the EU and the UK Government about resolving issues with the protocol.
Assembly members met for the first time in the chamber yesterday after Sinn Fein emerged as the largest party for the first time after last week’s elections.
They tried to elect a speaker but candidates did not receive the necessary support. The DUP is also refusing to nominate a deputy first minister.