The leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, has blamed the British Government for the collapse of the north’s power sharing Executive.
In February, the DUP’s Paul Givan tendered his resignation as First Minister, thus collapsing the Northern Ireland Executive, because of the party’s unhappiness with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Designed by the EU and UK to keep the Irish border open, the protocol means Northern Ireland is still bound by certain aspects of EU law and goods imported from Great Britain are now subjected to customs checks.
Details of the protocol are currently being renegotiated by London and Brussels but the DUP say that until reform is agreed, they will not participate in the Executive.
“We need this to be resolved,” Sir Jeffrey told journalists.
“When we re-entered the Executive back at the beginning of 2020, we did so on the basis of clear commitment by the UK Government under the New Decade, New Approach Agreement to address and protect our ability to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom… That’s what we need the Government to do.
“We’re not asking them to do anything that they have not already committed to.
“They gave a firm commitment to protect our place in the UK internal market.
“They have not done so. They have failed over the last two and a half years to honour that commitment and we made clear to the Secretary of State this morning [that] until he honours his commitment the obligations that they entered into in New Decade, New Approach, we will not be nominating ministers to the Executive.”
We will not nominate Ministers until there is decisive action taken by the U.K. Government on the Protocol. That was our position before the election campaign, during the election and it remains today. pic.twitter.com/OEiwuXcpKF
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) May 9, 2022
'Brinkmanship will not be tolerated'
Yesterday Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald told On The Record with Gavan Reilly that the Executive had no power over the protocol and that “the difficulties, as the DUP perceive them, with the protocol can only be sorted out through a process of good faith engagement and dialogue between the Government in London and the European institutions.”
While First Minister-elect Michelle O’Neill, said that “brinkmanship will not be tolerated where the north of Ireland becomes collateral damage in a game of chicken with the European Commission.”
“We must apply the full powers and resources of the Executive and the Assembly to address the major issues of the day facing those whom we all represent,” she added.
“It’s time for us all as political leaders to have the courage to step forward with unity of purpose and determination to deliver a stable power sharing coalition.”
The British Government had consistently said that if no agreement on reform of the protocol can be reached with the EU, then it will invoke Article 16 of the treaty to override aspects of it.
“Northern Ireland is not in the Single Market and shouldn’t be treated as if it is,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in January.
“We are proposing a common-sense solution – goods going to the EU should go through customs formalities and those staying in the United Kingdom should not.”
Article 16 was first used by the European Union in January 2021 to restrict the export of vaccines to Northern Ireland. The bloc subsequently u-turned and has since described it as “a very distracting element in the discussions”.
“You try to achieve something together and – bam – there’s the threat of Article 16 again,” European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič complained.
“It touches on the fundamentals of our relationship.
“The Northern Ireland protocol was the most complicated part of the Brexit negotiations, and it is the foundation of the entire deal.
“Without the protocol, the whole system will collapse. We must prevent that at any cost.”
Main image: DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Archive/PA Images