Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said his party will not re-join the power sharing arrangement in Stormont until there is “decisive action” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Despite the urging of Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis for the DUP to join Sinn Fein in government, Donaldson said he would not nominate ministers.
Donaldson said the DUP’s position was consistent with its election stance, reports the Daily Mail.
“We are clear about the damage and harmful impact the Protocol continues to have on Northern Ireland – driving up the cost of living, harming our economy, impeding the ability of businesses to trade with our biggest market and fundamentally undermining political stability, undermining the principle of consensus politics,” he said.
Speaking to the media, Donaldson said that, despite losing its status as the biggest party at the Northern Irish Assembly to Sinn Fein, he had a mandate to press the government to protect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.
The BBC reports that Brandon Lewis urged party leaders to respect the outcome of the election and re-establish Stormont as soon as possible.
He said London would “continue to press the EU to agree the crucial changes that are urgently needed”.
For months, the DUP has protested against the Protocol, which was agreed to in the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU in 2019.
The agreement retains the free trade of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in a bid to avoid the need for a hard border on the island.
It has angered some unionists because it has led to the introduction of new checks on some goods moving from Britain to the region. They also say it undermines Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.
According to Sky News, the comments from the DUP leader suggest that the prospect of power sharing resuming at Stormont is diminishing.
Under the Good Friday Agreement, a government must include a first minister and deputy first minister from Republican and Unionist parties.
Speaking yesterday (9 May), Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill, who as leader of the biggest party at Stormont is the incoming first minister, said the DUP and the British government should respect the election result.
“Responsibility for finding solutions to the Protocol lie with Boris Johnson and the EU,” she said.
UK-EU negotiations over the implementation of the Protocol can resume now that the elections have taken place.
However, reports in the national media have said the Cabinet is split on the matter, with foreign secretary Liz Truss wanting to unilaterally tear up parts of the Protocol, but other ministers, such as, Michael Gove, favours more talks.