The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson today urged, but to no avail, unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland to reach an agreement to end the political stalemate caused by post-Brexit customs controls.
Ten days after Sinn Fein won a landslide victory in local elections, the British prime minister met with the leaders of the province’s political parties at Hillsborough Tower on the outskirts of Belfast. His goal was to persuade them to “return to work” to solve the daily problems of the citizens, since the institutions are now under-functioning.
The conservatives of the conservative DUP party refuse to join the local government, as stipulated in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which ended 30 years of unrest. And they blocked the functioning of the local parliament, preventing, for the time being, the election of its president. The Unionists, who want Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, are trying to express their protest over the London-Brussels Protocol to resolve the sensitive border issue between that province and Ireland. country that is a member of the EU, after Brexit. This text creates a “customs border” in the Irish Sea and threatens, as they claim, the unity of the United Kingdom.
After her meeting with Johnson, who was criticized by about 200 protesters on his arrival, Sinn Féin’s President Mary Lou MacDonald spoke of a “difficult” discussion from which no “clear answers” emerged. “Despite the British government’s rhetoric of restoring executive power here in the north (Ireland), its priority is actually to appease the DUP,” he said.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donalson, for his part, called for “actions, not words.” “I want to see the government ratify a law that will bring the solution we need,” he said.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Tras is expected to present the government’s “reasoning” to parliament tomorrow, Tuesday, which insists it is necessary to “act urgently”.
According to the British press, the government may announce a bill that will allow the government to unilaterally repeal certain articles of the Protocol. It will take weeks for this law to be passed, while at the same time paving the way for a long period of tension in the EU’s relations with Britain. European Council President Charles Michel said today, following contacts with Irish Prime Minister Michal Martin, that the British government should discuss the Protocol with the EU instead of repealing it unilaterally.
“Any British unilateral action on the Protocol that would undermine its international obligations is not welcome, especially in these difficult geopolitical times,” he said.
MacDonald told reporters that Johnson “was not clear” to her about the details of the bill. “We have told him directly that the unilateral legislation proposed by Westminster is wrong. We find it completely paradoxical that the British government is proposing a law to break the law.”
“We did not get any direct answers from the prime minister,” he added.
Arriving at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Cowney warned against taking “unilateral measures and threatening to take unilateral measures” that would violate international law.
“Such actions are the last thing Europe needs at a time when we are working so well together against Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he said, adding that the Northern Ireland Protocol and the London-Brussels Free Trade Agreement were interlinked.