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DUP threatens to collapse Stormont power-sharing ‘within weeks’ if Brexit checks not axed

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also announced the party’s immediate withdrawal from all Irish cross-border political institutions

Adam Forrest
Thursday 09 September 2021 19:51 BST
Related video: DUP MP told protocol position is ‘extraordinary’

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has threatened to collapse power-sharing arrangements at Stormont “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 for the island of Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement.

Sir Jeffrey also said DUP ministers would “seek to block additional checks at the ports” when ongoing grace periods end – regardless of legal demands from the UK government and the EU.

The moves are part of an intensification of the DUP’s campaign of opposition to Brexit arrangements that have created trading barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey issued the warning on the future of the Stormont executive in a keynote address in Belfast on the same day as EU Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic began a two-day visit to Northern Ireland.

Ahead of any move to pull ministers out of the current coalition in Northern Ireland – a step that would bring down the power-sharing institutions – Sir Jeffrey said his party was first seeking to challenge the legality of checks on GB to NI trade introduced under the protocol.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Sir Jeffrey added: “Within weeks it will become clear if there is a basis for the Assembly and Executive to continue in this current mandate.”

Sir Jeffrey declared the unionist party will no longer take part in “strand two” of north-south co-operation under the Good Friday Agreement – withdrawing from north-south political bodies set up to ensure cross-border co-operation.

The DUP leader also said ministers would seek to use their votes at the Stormont Executive to block the implementation of any additional checks at Northern Ireland ports when ongoing grace periods end.

He said the DUP would also oppose the passage of regulations at Stormont required to reflect any changes to EU law applying in Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey said his party had 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”.

Mr Sefcovic was expected to hold a series of meetings with politicians and business leaders in Northern Ireland on Thursday during his visit. Ahead of his trip, he said the EU rejected demands to “renegotiate” the protocol.

“Let’s focus on the concrete problem. Let’s not try to renegotiate the protocol. This is definitely not our aim and I believe that we can find the good solution to the outstanding issues,” he told a news conference.

Meanwhile, the UK government is reportedly considering whether new post-Brexit paperwork for imports from the EU, due to be phased in from October, could be delayed to avoid further supply disruption.

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