The leader of the DUP has signalled his party will collapse the Stormont Executive (parliament in the north of Ireland) within weeks if changes to Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol are not delivered. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also announced his party’s immediate withdrawal from cross-border political institutions established on the island of Ireland under the Good Friday peace agreement.
The moves are part of an intensification of the DUP’s campaign of opposition to post-Brexit arrangements that have created trading barriers between Great Britain and the north of Ireland. Donaldson issued the warning on the future of Stormont in a keynote address in Belfast on the same day as European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic began a two-day visit to the north.
The DUP would bring done the north’s government
Ahead of any move to pull ministers out of the coalition administration, a step that would bring down the powersharing institutions, Donaldson said his party was first seeking to challenge the legality of checks on GB to the north of Ireland trade introduced under the protocol and establish whether their implementation requires the approval of the Stormont Executive. Donaldson said:
In the final analysis those who are democratically elected by the people of Northern Ireland lack the power to prevent such checks, if that is the case, if our ministers cannot in the end prevent these checks taking place and if the protocol issues remain then I have to be clear, the position in office of DUP ministers would become untenable,
If the choice is ultimately between remaining in office or implementing the protocol in its present form then the only option, the only option for any unionist minister would be to cease to hold such office.
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Within weeks it will become clear if there is a basis for the Assembly and Executive to continue in this current mandate, and I want that to happen.
But, equally, we will also need to consider whether there is a need for an Assembly election to refresh our mandate if action is not taken to address and resolve the issues related to the protocol and its impact, its damaging impact on Northern Ireland each and every day.
People call Donaldson out
And there was a big reaction to Donaldson’s declaration. Irish republican Danny Morrison said:
100 years old and still not grown up. If SF did what Jeffrey Donaldson is proposing the Dublin government and parties would CONDEMN it. But watch the double-standard with rhetoric expressing regret.
And Mr Šefčovič – welcome to the Orange Card.
— Danny Morrison (@molloy1916) September 9, 2021
While political commentator Emma DeSouza tweeted:
Jeffrey Donaldson says DUP could collapse Stormont in Brexit protocol battle.
— Emma DeSouza (@EmmandJDeSouza) September 9, 2021
While others suspected an ulterior motive:
Jeffrey Donaldson is speaking, but I fear Jim Allister's hand is controlling his lips. pic.twitter.com/3oPeeF0Sk5
— Belfast Unionist (@BelfastUnionist) September 9, 2021
These political theatrics are both cynical and exhausting. It's so obviously positioning ahead of elections, about putting party first.
It's certainly not about delivering better for our people and their priorities – health, schools, jobs, safety.
Self-indulgent posturing. https://t.co/6bgVPnOtbU
— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) September 9, 2021
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland. It achieves that by moving many of the checks and processes required on goods to the Irish Sea. Under the arrangements, the north of Ireland remains in the EU single market for goods and continues to apply EU customs rules.
Unionists in the north of Ireland have been vehemently opposed to its terms which see additional checks on goods arriving to the region from the rest of the UK. They claim the arrangements have undermined the north’s place within the UK.
While Donaldson said the DUP was withdrawing from north/south political bodies he said his party would seek to ensure continued cross-border co-operation on health issues.
Featured image via Garry Knight
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