The Democratic Unionist Party is to call for an urgent meeting with Boris Johnson to warn him he will block power-sharing at Stormont until Christmas if the Northern Ireland protocol is not changed.
A senior party official said he would shift responsibility for Stormont to the Prime Minister: ‘We will say he has a choice: Stormont or protocol.
The ultimatum came as UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab pledged to do ‘everything necessary’ to change the protocol, which imposes checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain. -Brittany.
But the DUP’s faith in the Tory party, which had already sunk to rock bottom, was shattered last week when Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis hinted the government was backing down from threats to introduce laws to unilaterally remove parts of the protocol.
Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson will set out his concerns in a statement on Tuesday after the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons.
The Queen’s Speech is expected to include a pledge to protect the interests of the Unionist community and the Good Friday Agreement, but the DUP says it will not go as far as it would like.
Re-elected DUP MP for Upper Bann, Jonathan Buckley, told the Belfast Telegraph on Sunday that Lewis must also take responsibility for changing protocol: “Either the Secretary of State wants an executive or protocol, he can’t have the of them. .”
Lewis said he would meet with all Northern Ireland party leaders in the coming days, but the DUP will stick to its position that it supports a boycott of Stormont and only intervention from London can restore the divide power. “We can delay this until Christmas,” a senior DUP official said.
The party argues that despite skyrocketing support for Sinn Féin in last week’s election, the majority of seats in Stormont (35) went to Unionist parties – 25 to the DUP, nine to the UUP and one to the Traditional Unionist Voice party.
Doug Beattie, the Ulster Unionist leader, said he had been invited to meet Lewis on Monday and expected the Stormont assembly to return to work this week, regardless of the formation of an executive. “I expect all of our MPs to be there. We have a lot to do. »
Claire Sugden, an independent trade unionist who had her seat in East Derry, said she was in favor of forming an executive as soon as possible. “I understand there are issues with the protocol, but I want to see an executive now, operational.” The protocol was not a constitutional issue but a logistical issue that needed to be resolved, she said.
Sugden said she would not join any party in Stormont, adding: “The people elected me as an independent.” There has been speculation that the DUP may try to co-opt independent union MPs to overtake Sinn Féin’s numerical superiority.
A Belfast insider has said the party needs substantial protocol reform, with one of its MPs warning that it must see the whole role of the European Court of Justice extinguished – which was previously a point friction in negotiations with the EU. “All the energy in unionism right now is right-wing and demands serious change.”
DUP insiders say they will urge the prime minister that new laws designed to prevent a future collapse of the assembly also give him the power to delay the formation of the executive for up to six months.
Under legislation passed in February, parties have six weeks after the opening of the assembly to form an executive. If they don’t, they can be given three more six-week extensions. If there is no executive at the end of 24 weeks, the Northern Ireland Secretary must call an election, which must take place within 12 weeks.
The deputy leader of the centrist Alliance party, Stephen Farry, who more than doubled his seats in the Assembly election, could prove an ally of the DUP.
Farry said over the weekend there needed to be a wider recognition that the protocol needed to be changed, but he called for a “pragmatic approach” with all parties working together at Stormont rather than another showdown with Brussels.