Donaldson repeats threat to collapse Stormont over NI protocol

Donaldson repeats threat to collapse Stormont over NI protocol

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson has made a renewed warning that the Northern Ireland institutions will be collapsed over a lack of progress in removing what he called “Irish Sea border”.

Mr Donaldson crticised British prime minister Boris Johnson for his lack of action on the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit agreement, which he said was “not sustainable”.

The DUP’s political opponents in the North criticised Mr Donaldson’s letter, with Sinn Féin accusing the main unionist party of “recklessness”.

The significance of the letter was played down in Dublin where there was a view in Government circles that Mr Donaldson was talking to his own party members, that the tone of the letter was “measured”, and it “leaves wriggle room for whatever develops”.

In the letter, seen by the Press Association news agency, Mr Donaldson said he challenged Mr Johnson in the House of Commons about “the lack of movement on the Irish Sea border being removed”.

He wrote: “His answer was a standard reply with little sign of movement. That is not sustainable.

“I have given space for talks. I have been reasonable, but Brussels is being unreasonable. These talks cannot go on for years.

“The prime minister must realise that if there is no progress then, as I said, on 9 September our continued participation in political institutions that are being used to impose the protocol is not sustainable.

“The uncertainty is deeply damaging on so many levels.”

Mr Johnson told Mr Donaldson on Wednesday that he believed the Northern Ireland Protocol could be worked “differently”, but that the EU had to be convinced of this. He did not rule out the use of Article 16 – which would suspend elements of the protocol – if talks with the EU do not progress.

‘Recklessness’

On Sunday Sinn Féin deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill accused the DUP of “recklessness” in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. She said collapsing the institutions “would disrupt critical budget allocations needed to bolster our health service”.

Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Doug Beattie also took to Twitter to say: “I have to reiterate my belief this [collapsing Stormont] would be bad for the people of Northern Ireland and for unionism. It will do nothing to address the protocol.”

Alliance MP Stephen Farry said: “This is tedious and repetitive. It would be a massive own goal for DUP, and destructive for [Northern Ireland]”.

A Government source here said it is focused on how the negotiations taking place are between the European Union and the United Kingdom are progressing and noted there has been some limited progress.

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