Jeffrey Donaldson warned he is ready to collapse the powersharing arrangements at Stormont unless he gets a clear timetable from the Foreign Secretary about pulling the plug on talks with the EU.
Sir Jeffrey said he had given the UK government ‘space’ to try and get a deal with Brussels on the post-Brexit rules, which unionists say effectively put a border between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
But he said the situation ‘cannot go on indefinitely’ and if ministers are not prepared to trigger Article 16 to suspend the protocol he will act.
The protocol was intended to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
But it has fuelled sectarian tensions because of checks and restrictions on products crossing the Irish Sea.
The UK and EU are still locked in talks as they try to agree solutions to smooth the operation of the protocol but a breakthrough remains elusive.
The terms of powersharing in Northern Ireland mean that the devolved government must have representatives from both the nationalist and unionist communities.
The last time the authorities at Stormont collapsed, in 2017, they not restored for three years.
Sir Jeffrey said he will have a ‘crunch meeting’ with Ms Truss next week.
‘Our position has been clear and if agreement cannot be reached quickly – and I have given time and space for these negotiations, I paused the actions that I intended to take when I saw that the EU and the UK Government were coming together to negotiate – I have tried to give time for those negotiations to make progress, but this cannot go on indefinitely,’ he told reporters in Co Fermanagh.
‘We’re now six months on from the UK Government’s command paper where they said six months ago that conditions had been met to trigger Article 16,
‘And six months later nothing has happened. That is not a sustainable position and if the UK Government isn’t prepared to act, I am.’
Sir Jeffrey said he need to head a ‘timescale for triggering Article 16’ from Ms Truss – who took over the Brexit role when Lord Frost quit last month.
‘Is there, as Liz Truss says, still a commitment to trigger Article 16 if agreement can’t be reached with the EU?’ Sir Jeffrey said.
‘That’s what she is saying publicly and I want to test that, I want to explore with her what that means, and particularly, what is the time scale for triggering Article 16 if these talks, as it appears at the moment, are not going to be successful,’ he added.
Sir Jeffrey said he wants to see Stormont continuing to deliver, but he needs an outcome on the protocol talks.
‘I want to see Stormont continuing to deliver, I want my ministers to continue working but I am very clear that we need an outcome on the protocol within a very short space of time,’ he said.
‘I know that people will say, ‘but you said that in December’.
‘I have tried to be reasonable, I have given time and space for these negotiations, I have waited to see what happens, I will talk to Liz Truss and see what she has to say, and then we will have to make a judgment as to whether we believe the UK Government is going to deliver on the commitment they made to safeguard Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market or not, and if they’re not, then they have dishonoured the agreement which formed the basis on which Stormont was restored and that is not a sustainable position.’
Source: Thanks msn.com