Boris Johnson to hold talks in Northern Ireland to try to break Stormont deadlock

UK

The prime minister is expected in Northern Ireland on Monday as efforts to break the political deadlock at Stormont intensify.

Boris Johnson will hold talks with party leaders and attempt to persuade the Democratic Unionists to enter the power sharing government.

Sinn Fein is now the largest party but its vice president, Michelle O’Neill, cannot become first minister without a Unionist deputy first minister.

The DUP has blocked the formation of a new devolved administration over the Northern Ireland Protocol and resulting sea border.

Boris Johnson may be forced to choose between a government in Belfast or the treaty he agreed with the EU.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, the prime minister said: “Many things have changed since the protocol was agreed.

“We have been told by the EU that it is impossible to make the changes to the protocol text to actually solve these problems in negotiations – because there is no mandate to do so.”

Committing to “keep the door open to genuine dialogue”, he echoed the words of Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney and referred to a potential “landing zone”.

“Our shared objective must be to create the broadest possible cross-community support for a reformed protocol in 2024,” he added.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks during a press conference, at Stormont parliament buildings after a meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to form a power-sharing government, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
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The DUP has blocked the formation of a new devolved administration

Boris Johnson said he hoped the EU would change its position but warned: “If it does not, there will be a necessity to act.

“The government has a responsibility to provide assurance that the consumers, citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland are protected in the long term.”

“We will set out a more detailed assessment and next steps to parliament in the coming days,” he added.

The government is preparing to publish legislation to override the protocol but Sky News understands there are still concerns in cabinet about the legal position.

The bill could be challenged in parliament or in the courts if it is deemed to have breached international law.

PM picking fight with EU and some of his own MPs


Rob Powell Political reporter

Rob Powell

Political correspondent

@robpowellnews

The government is planning to publish legislation to override the Northern Ireland Protocol.

By presenting legislation that appears to cut across international law, Boris Johnson is not only picking a fight with the EU, but also with some of his own MPs and members of the House of Lords.

Conservative chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee Simon Hoare said today the move would be an “indelible stain on our country’s reputation” and called on colleagues to ask themselves “what would we be saying if a Labour government was doing this?”

Senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale was equally scathing, saying Boris Johnson signed the Brexit agreement in 2019 and campaigned in a general election on the back of it.

“They weren’t bleating about it then. Boris Johnson is responsible for it… our word is our bond and if we say we are going to do something then we should,” said the Kent MP.

Read the full analysis here

The inclusion of protections to avert that would limit any action to the constraints of the full Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, DUP leader, said: “The prime minister’s visit to Northern Ireland is a recognition that the protocol is not working and is harmful to Northern Ireland. Those problems must be addressed.

“We wait to hear what the prime minister has to say but we will not make judgments based on words. It is decisive action that must be taken.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill at Stormont
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Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill at Stormont

“Until that action is taken, the consensus necessary for power sharing in Northern Ireland does not exist.

“We respect the mandate received by other parties, but equally they must recognise the clear view expressed by the Unionist electorate.”

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