DUP PARTY leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson issued a stark warning that power-sharing in Northern Ireland could face imminent collapse if unionist concerns around the NI protocol are not addressed.
He has also called for a boycott of cross-border institutions – enshrined under the Good Friday Agreement – in a bid to force the hand of the EU, as well as the Conservative-led UK Government, to abandon special trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.
Now representatives from Sinn Féin and the SDLP have hit back, calling the posturing of DUP members and others ‘irresponsible’, and urging their colleagues in the chamber to dial back inflammatory rhetoric in the face of fuel shortages, concerns over imports and the ongoing difficulties caused by COVID.
SDLP Brexit spokesperson and MLA for South Belfast, Matthew O’Toole said: “It is surreal to see the DUP and others inflame anger over the Protocol at the very same moment as the reality of Brexit overall is being shown on our TV screens.
Supply chains for food in England are in chaos, there is a fuel crisis, fruit and veg is rotting unpicked – all because of the effects of Brexit itself. Yet the DUP and others are using the anniversary of the Ulster Covenant to beat the drum of anger and distract from the effects of the Brexit they championed.”
He further elaborated: “Brexit isn’t working… The sooner everyone accepts reality and starts looking for practical solutions to the problems created by Brexit, as well as ways to take advantage of the unique economic benefits of the Protocol, the better.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Brexit spokesperson and MLA for South Antrim, Declan Kearney said:
“The Protocol exists to try and mitigate the worst implications of a hard Brexit for businesses and citizens in the north. There is no credible alternative. It will not be renegotiated. It is here to stay.
The focus now must be on full and flexible implementation of the Protocol to give certainty and stability for local businesses and wider society.
Businesses, manufacturers and farmers must be allowed to seize opportunities to create jobs and investment, and maximise unprecedented access to the EU and British markets which the Protocol provides.”
At this point it is unclear whether a resolution over these disagreements is within sight, though UUP party leader Doug Beattie has stressed that a compromise must be found, and echoed sentiments expressed by the SDLP and Sinn Féin that north-south cooperation should be at the forefront of any workable solution.