DESPITE the British government risking a diplomatic disaster by unilaterally announcing plans to transform the Brexit Protocol yesterday (Tuesday), it appears there won’t be any return to Stormont for Fermanagh’s MLAs any time soon.
As the saga drags on, there have been increasingly urgent calls for the politicians to get back to work to tackle on the worsening cost of living crisis as soon as possible.
Earlier this week British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make changes to the Protocol arrangement, which was previously agreed between the EU and the UK to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit, but has resulted in checks on goods coming from the UK into the North.
Ms Truss’s proposed plan would see separate ‘red’ and ‘green’ lanes for goods coming here from Britain, with those not intended for the wider UK market avoiding the current checks.
However, despite the announcement, it is understood the DUP – who has refused to join an Executive or nominate an Assembly speaker until the issue is resolved – will not go back into powersharing until any changes come into force.
“The tabling of legislation is words,” said DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said, prior to the announcement.
“What I need is decisive action. And that means I want to see the Government enacting legislation that will bring the solution that we need.”
Yesterday’s announcement came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to Belfast on Monday to meet with the parties, including the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Mr Johnson was greeted to a group of noisy protesters, which included members of Border Communities Against Brexit.
Fermanagh MLA Jemma Dolan was among the protesters. Speaking afterwards she said Mr Johnson and the DUP were standing in the way of an Executive being formed, and denying local representatives the change to work on tackling the cost of living crisis.
“It is less then two weeks since the election when people came out in large numbers and voted for politics to work,” she said.
“They voted for parties to work together and for the Executive to help them with the cost-of-living crisis. They voted to put £1 billion into our health service to start the job of fixing it.
“Unfortunately voters are being denied all of that by the DUP who are being supported by Boris Johnson.”
Ms Dolan said it was “simply not acceptable” and the outcome of the election should be respected.
The Confederation of British Industry NI has also called for clarity and stability in the light of the growing costs pressures, calling for flexibility and political will from all involved.
“Politicians everywhere should be focussed on helping the most vulnerable in society amid the worst cost of living crisis in decades,” said a spokeswoman.
“Firms are already reeling from the rising cost of doing business. The last thing they want is further uncertainty in trading arrangements amid global supply chain challenges.”
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