DUP will not endorse a speaker or appoint ministers until the UK amends the protocol governing post-Brexit trade.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has said it will block the election of a speaker to the Northern Ireland Assembly, in a move that would shut down the British province’s newly elected legislature.
In a statement to the News Letter, a Northern Ireland newspaper, party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said on Friday he would not endorse a speaker or nominate ministers until the UK amended the Northern Ireland Protocol governing trade. post-Brexit in the region.
The DUP, which last week lost its place as the region’s largest party to Irish nationalists Sinn Féin, had already said it would block the formation of an executive.
“Today the DUP will not support the election of a speaker in the Assembly,” he said in the statement.
Michelle O’Neill, leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, said the DUP, which supported Britain’s exit from the European Union, was punishing the public by not showing up.
“They are shamefully holding the public to ransom for their Brexit mess,” he said on Twitter.
“Today is the day that we should be forming an Executive to put money in people’s pockets and start fixing our health service.”
The main Irish nationalist and British unionist rivals in Northern Ireland are bound to share power under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that largely ended 30 years of sectarian bloodshed in the region.
Power-sharing between the blocs requires both sides to agree on a speaker before choosing an intercommunity government. The set cannot fully function without a speaker.
Unionist concerns over the Northern Ireland Protocol were not simply a political dispute, Donaldson said, calling the protocol “a direct challenge to the principles that have underpinned every agreement reached in Northern Ireland over the last 25 years.”
When Britain left the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government agreed to a deal that effectively locked Northern Ireland into the EU’s single market and customs union given its open border with EU member Ireland.
That created a customs border at sea between the rest of the UK and the province, which pro-British communities in Northern Ireland say erodes their place within the UK. Britain now says the required bureaucracy is intolerable.