‘We can’t go on like this’: DUP leader urges Boris Johnson to ‘firmly’ commit to tearing up post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland if no deal can be reached with EU
- Jeffrey Donaldson wants a ‘firm commitment’ from Boris Johnson on Brexit rules
- DUP leader says if UK can’t get deal with EU then PM must tear up the rules
- Sir Jeffrey has accused Mr Johnson of being distracted by the Partygate scandal
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson today demanded a ‘firm commitment’ from Boris Johnson to unilaterally tear up post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland if the UK cannot strike a compromise deal with the EU.
The DUP leader suggested Mr Johnson was currently distracted by the Partygate scandal and claimed the problems in Northern Ireland ‘are not getting the attention they deserve’.
Sir Jeffrey warned ‘we can’t go on like this’ as he sought a cast iron guarantee from the Prime Minister that the UK would act alone to remove border controls if Brussels refused to give ground during negotiations.
His comments came after the resignation of Paul Givan from the DUP as Prime Minister last week in a move that effectively collapsed the Stormont executive ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May.
The resignation was a protest against the Northern Ireland protocol, as the DUP threatened not to return to power-sharing unless issues around the border were resolved.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson today demanded a ‘firm commitment’ from Boris Johnson to unilaterally tear up post-Brexit border rules in Northern Ireland if the UK cannot strike a compromise deal with the EU
The protocol was negotiated as part of the Brexit deal to avoid a hard border with Ireland, effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single goods market.
But trade unionists have pushed for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.
The UK and EU remain locked in talks as they try to agree solutions to make the protocol easier to work, but a breakthrough remains elusive.
The UK has repeatedly threatened to trigger Article 16 of the protocol to unilaterally tear up border rules if the two sides fail to reach an agreement.
But Sir Jeffrey said he needed a “firm commitment” that Article 16 would soon be triggered if Britain and Brussels failed to reach an agreement.
He told Sky News that Mr Johnson ‘let us down and let us down badly’ over Brexit.
He said: “I would say this to the Prime Minister: Northern Ireland is an important part of the UK, you are our Prime Minister and if you want to build trust, do what other Prime Ministers have done in the past.
“Recognize that we have a serious problem here and instead of focusing on what is happening in Downing Street, be the Prime Minister the people need, reach out to Northern Ireland, help us solve these problems, make them a priority, restore our political institutions to sound foundations.
“It means dealing with protocol, making these issues a priority so that the people of Northern Ireland can benefit from a strong and stable government.
“That’s what we expect from a prime minister. We can’t go on like this. We cannot continue with a situation where serious issues like the ones we have here in Northern Ireland are not getting the attention they deserve.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic are due to meet again in London next week to continue negotiations aimed at cutting red tape associated with the protocol.
Sir Jeffrey said: “While I very much welcome Liz Truss’ commitment to taking the negotiations forward, I am disappointed that our Prime Minister cannot make a firm commitment today that if he does not there is no agreement with the European Union, it will take the steps that are necessary to restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.
“That means triggering Article 16. That’s the commitment I need to get from this prime minister.”