Boris Johnson will urge politicians in Northern Ireland to ‘get back to work’ as the UK government seeks to resolve the impasse with Brussels over the post-Brexit commercial arrangements.
UK PM to tell Stormont Assembly leaders he wants power-sharing back and working when he visits Belfast Monday for a series of crisis talks.
The visit comes after the DUP blocked the election of a Speaker for the Stormont Assembly, preventing him from sitting.
The decision of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party effectively prevents the Assembly from functioning, sparking a bitter row.
Government sources said Mr Johnson would use a series of private meetings to send a strong message that parties must come together to form an executive and assembly if issues with Northern Ireland protocol are to be resolved.
He is expected to say that while the UK government will play its part in ensuring political stability, politicians need to get back to work so they can answer the bread and butter questions for voters.
The blocking by the DUP of a President of the Assembly was condemned by Sinn Fein Michelle O’Neill whose party is now the biggest in the world Assembly after the elections at the beginning of the month.
Other party leaders also scorned the tactic, including Alliance’s Naomi Long – who called it ‘shameful’ and a ‘sad day for Northern Ireland’.
Sir Jeffrey has also come under fire, after stepping down from his Lagan Valley seat in Stormont – opting instead to stay in his role at Westminster.
Emma Little-Pengelly, former MP for South Belfast, was co-opted to his seat in the Assembly.
Paul Givan of the DUP told MPs on Friday that the party would not support the election of a president.
Mr Givan resigned as prime minister in February, amid DUP protests against the protocol.
He said: “The DUP has been given a mandate to remove the Irish Sea border and our mandate will be upheld. Our message is now clear, it is time for action, words will no longer suffice.”
He continued: “Northern Ireland works best when we work together. Those who now call for majority rule must recommit to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.
“We will not be dictated to, we will be treated with respect and equality. Now is the time to act.”
The DUP opposes the protocol because it requires checks on goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland, in order to guard the border with the Republic. British ministers have repeatedly said they will act unilaterally if an agreement cannot be reached to reduce the impact of checks, which have been accused of hitting businesses and fueling community tensions.
In his talks, Mr Johnson is expected to say that while the government will always keep the door open for genuine dialogue, action will be needed to protect the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) if there is no change in the EU’s position.
He will insist that the government never suggested scrapping the protocol and will acknowledge that there will still need to be a treaty governing the UK’s relationship with the EU in relation to Northern Ireland in order to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.
However, he will say the delicate balance of the GFA has been upset, eroding the historic economic ties between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, leaving the Unionist community feeling threatened in its aspirations and identity.
The Prime Minister will argue that the common goal of the UK and the EU should be to agree a reformed protocol that can have the widest possible cross-community support when faced with a consent vote in 2024.
Mr Johnson will also use his visit to ensure the fulfillment of three pre-existing commitments on a language and culture package, guaranteeing women and girls access to abortion services and introducing new measures to address the legacy of the past.
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