The DUP have continued their criticism of the government’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol this morning. It follows Rishi Sunak’s visit to Northern Ireland last week, which included a meeting with DUP representatives, in a bid to seek a resolution.
Sammy Wilson, who serves as the DUP’s chief whip at Westminster, confirmed that the DUP would “refuse” to implement a deal, and could not “participate in the Stormont Assembly” if a deal is agreed without them.
He added that the government has entered negotiations with the EU with “an attitude of defeat”.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Wilson said: “Essentially if a deal is agreed which still keeps us within the EU Single Market, as ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly we would be required by law to implement that deal”.
“And we’re not going to do that because we believe that such an arrangement is designed to take us out of the United Kingdom and indeed would take us out of the United Kingdom because increasingly we would have to agree EU laws which diverge from UK laws and in doing so would separate our own country from the rest the United Kingdom”.
He added: “We’re British, and we expect to be governed by British law not Brussels law”.
The DUP has refused to enter power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland over their concerns about the operation of the protocol. In response, they have issued seven “tests” or redlines which they saw any new Protocol deal must pass; these include no border in the Irish Sea and no checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
In the aftermath of the DUP’s meeting with the prime minister on Friday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson reiterated his party’s commitment to the seven tests.
He said: “It is not a question of us compromising, it is a question of the UK Government honouring the commitments they have made to the people of Northern Ireland”.
Rishi Sunak’s visit to Northern Ireland on Friday, amid reports the government was preparing to announce a new protocol deal, was followed by a series of meetings with EU leaders at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
This included a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in which he is thought to have reported back on the substance of Friday’s exchanges. Downing Street said “very good progress” was being made, but insisted “intensive work” is still needed “in the coming days”.
In a stunning intervention on Sunday, Boris Johnson waded into the protocol debate, with a source close to the former prime minister telling Sky News: “His general thinking is that it would be a great mistake to drop the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill (NIPB)”.
This was a reference to controversial legislation introduced by Mr Johnson which gives ministers power to rip up parts of the protocol and ignore EU rules.
Asked about the warning from Mr Johnson, the House of Commons leader told Sky News: “Boris is being Boris. I wouldn’t say this is a completely unhelpful intervention”
“The prime minister will acknowledge that having the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill there, having the work that the former prime minister did, has helped us get where we are”.
It came amid growing concern from government officials that Mr Sunak could face a rebellion over the issue of the protocol.
However, Labour has reiterated its intention to support a deal from Rishi Sunak on the Northern Ireland Protocol if it is in the national interest.
Sarah Jones, the shadow policing minister, was speaking to Sky News this morning.
She said: “I think one of the frustrations we’ve felt in the negotiations on Northern Ireland has been that the negotiation is not between the UK and the EU, it’s between the prime minister and his own backbenches”.
She added that the intervention from Boris Johnson over the weekend showed there was a “war going on” between backbench Conservative MPs and the government.
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