Democratic Unionist Party members of the Northern Ireland assembly have threatened to bring down the province’s government if Boris Johnson's Brexit deal is not overturned.
Assembly member Jonathan Buckley said collapsing the Stormont power-sharing administration was “on the table” as an option and that the protocol had been an “unmitigated disaster”.
It comes after former first minister and ex-DUP leader Peter Robinson suggested that collapsing the government was the only alternative to accepting the current situation.
“It’s quite simple really: either suck it up in its present or minimally changed form or resist it,” he wrote in an article for the Belfast News Letter.
But the DUP’s current leadership under the first minister, Arlene Foster, has rejected the route, stating: “We need to make Stormont work".
Ms Foster argued that Mr Johnson should instead trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland agreement, effectively overriding parts of it.
The treaty article allows either party to it to suspend parts of the deal in the case of prolonged social or economic disruption.
Unionists and others in Northern Ireland are angry at the agreement, which has imposed significant barriers to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland as the price of keeping the border with the Republic open after Brexit.
The new border in the Irish Sea has seen a shortage of some goods sourced from Britain, and some British companies have simply given give up trading there because of new bureaucracy.
The problems have reached the point where the UK government is reportedly considering legislation to force UK companies to do business in Northern Ireland.
Some EU and UK personnel carrying out new border controls have also been told not to go to work after reports of threats.
Northern Ireland finally got a government again in January 2020 almost three years to the day after the last administration collapsed.
A petition launched by the DUP calling for Article 16 to be triggered has passed 100,000 signatures and will therefore be considered for debate in the House of Commons in Westminster.
No date has been given for such a debate and parliamentary authorities say there is a backlog of petitions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This week the EU rejected a UK call to “refine” the Brexit agreement to deal with some of the problems in Northern Ireland.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies