Unionists reacted furiously last night after Britain’s Northern Ireland secretary signaled on the eve of the general election that Britain would not change the NI Protocol any time soon.
Brandon Lewis advertised on ITVs pesto program last night that his government had backed out of including plans in the Queen’s speech next week to allow them to sit out part of the protocol.
Just hours before polling stations open for today’s general election, his comments could spell serious trouble for DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson.
TUV leader Jim Allister said he was not surprised by the experience so far, which the Secretary of State signaled.
“If the government shies away from action again, it underscores the need for unionized voters to react decisively in the elections…and reject unjust protocol by voting for TÜV.” No sea border,” he said.
“A rising TUV vote is seen as the trigger for the need for action, not words. Unionists must maximize pressure on the government.
“While others have flirted with the ‘best of both worlds’ nonsense and plied the poots’ posts, TUV is the voice of implacable opposition to protocol. There must be no misinterpretation of what a vote means for TÜV.”
The DUP was asked for an opinion.
Mr Donaldson’s party is fighting to remain the largest in Stormont and retain the position of First Minister. Opinion polls show that Sinn Féin is ahead and the party is also the clear favorite among bookmakers.
Voter turnout will be the key to determining the composition of the next assembly. There are fears the boring, low-key campaign could leave people unmotivated to vote.
The 2017 general election saw a turnout of 65 percent after Sinn Féin crashed Stormont and Arlene Foster’s “crocodile” comments. However, the turnout in the previous year was significantly lower at 55 percent.
A total of 606 polling stations across Northern Ireland open at 7am and close at 10pm. The counting starts tomorrow morning, the first results are expected in the afternoon.
For the first time, voters at polling stations are advised to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“Please bring a mask. We’re trying everything we can to provide as much protection,” said Virginia McVea, Elections Superintendent.
“There will be some masks available – but it would be great if you could put a mask in your pocket.
“If you’re uncomfortable using the pens in the polling booths, we will clean them – but if you’re uncomfortable, bring your own pen or pencil,” she told the BBC.
Political leaders in the north spent yesterday frantically campaigning at the last minute before polling stations opened.
Jeffrey Donaldson spent his final day campaigning in Belfast while Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill spent her time in Mid Ulster.
If the opinion polls produce any results, it would be the first time a nationalist or republican party has been at the helm in Stormont and could nominate a First Minister.
Mr Donaldson described the election as “a choice between real action on issues that matter to people or a divisive plan for border elections”.
He described the result of the election as “crucial for the future of Northern Ireland”.
Ms O’Neill described the election as a “moment in history” and a “real change”.
She said she wanted to be First Minister for All.
“On the first day after this election, Sinn Féin will be ready to form an executive and get down to business,” she said.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood visited a number of constituencies to support his candidates on the final day of voting. He is the only party leader not to stand for election today as he is currently the MP for Foyle.
He described the election as an opportunity for voters to “reflect seriously on how government has operated over the past five years”.
“People in every community can determine if Stormont has done enough to help them with rising fuel, food and energy bills, address the hospital waiting list crisis and put them and their families first,” he said.
“In my opinion, Stormont hasn’t worked for too many communities – and it’s time to elect political leaders who put people first.
“This election is not about protocol or the position that anyone holds at Stormont. None of this will heat a single home or give a single hospital patient the care they need.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said his party offered a “confident, positive, pro-union alternative that works for everyone”.
“Leaving Stormont will not solve the problem. Protocol must be replaced with a solution that works for everyone so we can focus on rebuilding the NHS, fostering economic recovery and tackling the rising cost of living,” he said.
“Politicians should not be giving up their posts at this time,” he said.
Alliance party leader Naomi Long said her party is keen to achieve a “seismic breakthrough that could change the way Stormont operates… History is set to be made on Thursday.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/londons-rejection-of-dup-protocol-red-line-on-the-eve-of-ni-elections-has-muddied-the-water-41616062.html London’s rejection of the ‘red line’ of the DUP protocol on the eve of the NI elections has muddied the waters