Political impasse continues over Northern Ireland protocol

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  • May 16, 2022
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Northern Ireland to meet two biggest parties, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has drawn mixed reactions on Monday.

Johnson, who wrote for the Belfast Telegraph, set out his policy on Northern Ireland, urging DUP to restore devolution, after indicating that the Protocol would remain but it must be fundamentally altered.

However, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said following a “tough” meeting with Johnson that altering the protocol would bring uncertainty to the region.

"It was a lively meeting. Tough I think is the word. We are not here to beat around the bush or to try and sugar coat anything. This is a very serious situation.”

McDonald added that it is “very, very foolish” and “reckless” of the prime minister to “pursue again the threat of unilateral action, to break international law and create a full on collision with the European institutions.”

She said: "We have said directly to him that proposed unilateral act of legislating at Westminster is wrong."

"It seems to us absolutely extraordinary that the British government would propose to legislate to break the law. It’s an extraordinary proposal and one that would amplify the bad faith with which the Tory government has conducted itself from beginning of the entire Brexit debacle."

“The only thing that that brings is uncertainty and tension, and real difficulties for families, for communities and for the economy," she added.

Accusing Johnson of engaging in "very unacceptable obstructionist tactics,” she said: "There is an established mechanism through the joint committee to deal with those elements of the protocol that need to be smoothed out, finessed and altered.

“The Prime Minister is aware of that. The government in Dublin is aware of that. The European institutions are aware of that.

"And yet here we find ourselves in a situation where the British Prime Minister is quite willing to act in coordination with the DUP, with very, very unacceptable obstructionist tactics.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, who has previously said that they would not take part in the power-sharing government unless the Northern Ireland Protocol was altered, said he is yet to see the central UK government’s plans on unilaterally overriding parts of the protocol.

“I want to see what the Government have to propose,” he said.

“I welcome the Prime Minister being here today and the opportunity to speak to him. We have waited a long time for this moment.”

British government is set to publish a new legislation on Tuesday to “unilaterally” change the Northern Ireland Protocol and “remove the requirement to check goods” transported to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Sinn Fein won most seats in the May 5 assembly election, and its leader Michelle O’Neill is the party’s nomination for the new First Minister. However, the DUP, their partner-to-be in the new power-sharing government rejects nominating a deputy first minister because of the protocol. If a deputy is not nominated, Sinn Fein is not able to form a government under unique and complex legislation of the region with painful past.

The Conservative Party government in London and DUP have argued that the protocol creates a sea-border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and therefore it is not acceptable in its current form.

Source: Anadolu Agency