Saturday, November 27

DUP May Abandon Stormont Power Sharing Over Brexit Protocol | North Ireland

The Democratic Unionist Party leadership has warned that it is prepared to abandon the shared power in Stormont if Northern Ireland’s Brexit protocol is not substantially changed.

Just days after Brexit Minister David Frost announced that the UK would not “sweep away” controversial agreements, which involve controls on goods crossing into Northern Ireland from Britain, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, warned that the DUP could not continue. at Stormont if “protocol issues persist.”

While Frost moved Monday to suspend parts of the protocol indefinitely, Donaldson upped the ante Thursday, saying he wanted fixes in a few weeks.

“We are totally opposed to the protocol as it currently exists. We will not accept it or work on it. In my assessment, the time frame for problem solving can be measured in weeks and not months or years, ”he said.

“If, in the final analysis, those who are democratically elected by the people of Northern Ireland lack the power to prevent such controls, and the problems of protocol persist, then the position in office of the DUP ministers would become untenable.

“Let me be clear: if the choice is ultimately between remaining in office or implementing the protocol in its current form, then the only option for any union minister would be to step down,” he said in a speech in Belfast.

He said the UK’s approach to “limiting” the protocol was “doomed” and “it’s much better that we grab the nettle now and have the matter settled once and for all.”

The comments, in a speech Wednesday morning, are the DUP’s gravest threat coming just 18 months after power-sharing was resumed. The Belfast-based assembly collapsed three years earlier after a bitter dispute with Sinn Féin.

It’s a major political move for Donaldson, who replaced Arlene Foster as party leader in the summer. The DUP has slumped in the polls, leaking support for rival unionist parties.

His warnings coincide with the arrival in Belfast of the Vice President of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, Lord Frost’s counterpart in Brussels, for two days of meetings with political, business and civic leaders.

Donaldson noted that Esmond Birnie, a senior economist at the University of Ulster, recently suggested that the cost of the protocol could be around £ 850 million a year.

“That is money that we simply cannot afford to lose. And although I am alarmed by the constitutional implications of the protocol, surely it is not simply a trade union issue ”.

He added that Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman recently warned that customers in Northern Ireland could face a “substantial reduction in food supply” and price increases this year.

Over the weekend, Frost said he was seeking substantial changes to the protocol and wanted to activate Article 13 (8) of the agreement, which allows the agreement to be superseded.

But he said this did not mean removing the protocol and, in his opinion, the new arrangements would still include some controls in the Irish Sea.

“It is not simply about limiting controls at the border or moving controls from the border. It must mean that, except in the most limited circumstances, EU law would not apply in Northern Ireland, ”said Donaldson.

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