James Forsyth

Why the DUP is blocking Northern Ireland’s assembly

Why the DUP is blocking Northern Ireland's assembly
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson (photo: Getty)
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It was known that the DUP would not agree to the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland until it felt that its concerns with the protocol had been addressed. What was not known was whether it would consent to the election of a speaker for the assembly. Today it said it would not and so no speaker has been elected. This means that the assembly cannot function.

The DUP’s aim is to increase the pressure for compromise on the protocol. It is saying that it will not allow the devolved institutions to function until it gets the changes it wants.

Boris Johnson will go to Northern Ireland on Monday. We can expect him to urge the parties to form an executive while repeating his view that there must be changes to the protocol. But, at the moment, the UK demands for change – and its threat of unilateral action – are not shifting opinion in Brussels.

If the UK does decide to legislate unilaterally, it won’t be a quick process. Even if the bill gets through the Lords, and there are some peers who think the government will have to push it through as an Act of Parliament, delaying the process by a year; it won’t be quick, as the Lords will want to take its time scrutinising it. We can expect this argument to continue for quite some time and increasingly come to dominate UK/ EU relations.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

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