Boris Johnson visits North as DUP halts return of assembly with veto on new speaker


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to visit Northern Ireland on Monday amid a deepening political emergency with the DUP blocking the election of a speaker at Stormont.

UP leader Jeffrey Donaldson insisted he was sending a “clear message” to the EU and UK government about resolving issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

But Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill accused the Unionist party of “punishing the electorate”, while Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said it had been a “shameful day” for the DUP.

Failure to elect a speaker renders the Stormont Assembly inoperative.

The DUP came second in last week’s general election, where Sinn Féin won the most seats. Under Northern power-sharing rules, Sinn Féin would have the right to the post of First Minister, while the DUP was given the post of Deputy First Minister.

A government cannot be formed unless both roles are filled, and the DUP said it would not take part if border controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK were abolished.

It hampered efforts to choose a speaker as they celebrate for the first time since yesterday’s election.

“The DUP has been given a mandate to remove the Irish Sea border and our mandate is respected,” Paul Givan, a member of the DUP assembly, told lawmakers. “Our message is now clear: it is time to act, words will no longer suffice.”

Mr Donaldson said his party’s concerns about the protocol were “not just a political dispute”. “The protocol is a direct challenge to the principles that have underpinned every agreement reached in the last 25 years of the peace process,” he said.

Ms O’Neill said the DUP “disgracefully held the public as ransom for their Brexit chaos. Now many people and businesses in Northern Ireland just want government that works.”

“The uncomfortable truth is that Northern Ireland’s reputation as a place to invest and work is growing every day while this continues,” said Paul Murnaghan, President of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Mr Johnson’s government said the political deadlock in Belfast was evidence the regulations – which it agreed to last year – are destabilizing the North’s peace deal.

The UK says it will act unilaterally to suspend some of the rules if the EU doesn’t agree to major changes.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Britain had “no choice but to act” if the EU did not show enough “flexibility”. The UK could introduce legislation giving it the power to suspend the treaty as early as next week.

The EU accuses Mr Johnson’s government of threatening to breach international law by breaking a binding treaty.

Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said: “Don’t forget that this treaty was drafted, ratified and agreed by the British Government under this Prime Minister. He got a huge mandate from the British people as a result of this deal and is now blaming the deal for the troubles in Northern Ireland.” Boris Johnson visits North as DUP halts return of assembly with veto on new speaker

Fry Electronics Team

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