Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s first minister in Northern Ireland, has accused Boris Johnson of “supporting the DUP” and helping the party prevent the formation of a new executive.
s O’Neill took part in a 45-minute meeting with the British Prime Minister yesterday, which she described as a “tough” and “robust” exchange of views.
She said the DUP is undermining the Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent the formation of a new Northern Ireland government and that Boris Johnson supports the party’s actions.
“There is only one party that blocks the formation of an executive after an election,” she said.
“We fought this election, got our result 11 days ago and have since been denied the ability to form an executive and respond to the cost of living crisis, additional health services and the DUP blocking all of that and you are backed by Boris Johnson and it was very important that he heard that loud and clear.”
Speaking of RTÉ Tomorrow Ireland On the programme, Ms O’Neill said Boris Johnson took “choreographed steps” to “cover the DUP”.
She said his actions were unacceptable as the people of Northern Ireland voted for all parties in the state to work together.
Ms O’Neill said “to make matters worse”, Mr Johnson will present plans today to “break international law”.
She said Mr Johnson yesterday said his government intended to “suspend” the protocol and hold parallel talks with EU officials.
“That’s not how you run a business. This is not how you arrive at an agreed path forward. With political will, of course… Protocol issues can be resolved, but that requires commitment and discussion between the two negotiators in this scenario, the UK Government and the European Commission, but unfortunately… the UK Government embarks on this path of threat-to-legislate enacted to overrule an international agreement,” she said.
Ms O’Neill added that the UK government is entering “very dangerous territory” and Northern Ireland will suffer if a trade war between the UK and the EU ensues.
Speaking on the same programme, EU Financial Stability Commissioner Mairéad McGuinness said the UK government had given a lot of “rotation” but there was political will from the EU to resolve issues with the protocol.
She said “veiled threats” would do “very little” to help the people of Northern Ireland and she hopes UK leaders will not announce “tough unilateral action” today.
However, on the potential for sanctions if the UK breaches the deal, Ms McGuinness said the EU will “not start conjuring up trade wars”.
The UK Foreign Secretary is expected to declare her intention to introduce legislation tearing up parts of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with Northern Ireland.
Liz Truss is understood to be making the announcement in a statement before the House of Commons after a full cabinet meeting today to try to restore power-sharing in the region.
The dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol has deadlocked efforts to form a new executive branch at Stormont, with the Democratic Unionist Party refusing to join government unless its concerns about the accords are addressed.
A majority of MLAs in Stormont’s newly elected Assembly represent parties supporting keeping the protocol, with many arguing that the deal offers the region protection from some of the negative economic consequences of Brexit.
They also point to the unrestricted access Northern Ireland traders have to sell into the EU single market as a key benefit of the protocol.
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Attempting to rewrite parts of the deal could risk a trade war with the European Union.
But a UK Foreign Office source said “it’s not about starting a fight with the EU,” and said Ms Truss’ priority was to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.
“They are motivated by the peace process and acting in the interests of Northern Ireland,” they said.
It is understood that Ms Truss is aiming to have the legislation before Parliament within a few weeks, and certainly before the summer.
However, it is believed that the overwhelming preference remains for a negotiated solution.
The Global Britain (Strategy) Committee, which deals with matters related to the UK’s trade priorities, will meet first today, followed by the full Cabinet before Ms Truss makes her statement to the House of Commons.
Last night the British Foreign Secretary held talks with Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic.
In both, Ms Truss stressed the importance of maintaining the Good Friday Agreement and restoring the Northern Ireland Executive.
Mr Sefcovic later said that it would be preferable to accept the “flexibilities” offered by the EU than to take unilateral action against the protocol.
He tweeted: “Political will can solve practical problems arising from the implementation of the Protocol in Northern Ireland.
“Working with us through the flexibilities we offer would be a better course of action than unilaterally. We are ready from the start to do our part.”
It comes after the UK Prime Minister traveled to Belfast to meet with leaders of the Stormont parties to make progress.
He also used Monday’s trip to warn Brussels that Britain is ready to unilaterally rewrite the terms of the Brexit deal he signed.
Mr Johnson described this plan as an “insurance policy” in case no new deal could be reached with the EU.
The threat of unilateral action has already been badly received in European capitals, and EU leaders have urged the UK government to play a full part in the talks.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the only way to resolve the dispute is for “substantive talks” between the UK and the EU.
Additional reporting by PA.
https://www.independent.ie/business/brexit/michelle-oneill-says-boris-johnsons-pandering-to-the-dup-is-preventing-the-formation-of-ni-executive-41656881.html Liz Truss announces plans to rip up parts of Northern Ireland Protocol after Boris Johnson’s Belfast trip