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DUP silent on threat to collapse Stormont as its deadline looms

The DUP is remaining tightlipped on its next steps after Brexit negotiator Lord Frost said current proposals by Brussels to reform the Northern Ireland Protocol “don’t go far enough”, setting a December deadline for the UK and EU to find a workable solution.

Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson threatened to pull his ministers out of the Executive before November if his demands over the Irish Sea border were not met.

But the DUP did not respond yesterday when asked if Sir Jeffrey would follow through and collapse Stormont, or if the arrangements proposed by the EU met the seven tests he laid out to support any special post-Brexit arrangements.

Meanwhile, Ian Paisley told fellow MPs the UK must immediately suspend the protocol to avoid the institutions being “torpedoed”.

His warning came as the House of Commons approved legislation designed to protect power-sharing by offering greater stability should a fresh political crisis emerge.

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The Bill relates to undertakings London made in the New Decade, New Approach deal, such as extending the time period within which a snap election must be called if devolution collapses again.

It would also lengthen the time allowed to appoint ministers after an election, and to allow ministers to stay in office for up to 24 weeks, or for up to 48 weeks if the First Minister or Deputy First Minister resigns.

Mr Paisley said: “People from Northern Ireland will look on at this, and whilst I’ll use a phrase ‘fiddling while Rome burns’, some people may think that more attractive than others. I certainly do not, but many people will know that a torpedo has been fired at the Northern Ireland institutions.

“It is outside of the control of the unionist parties, of the nationalist parties operating the Assembly, and that torpedo is the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said London was committed to ensuring New Decade, New Approach was “delivered in full”.

He added: “The past 18 months have demonstrated that a power-sharing Executive can work together under the hardest of circumstances to find compromise and act in the shared interests of all communities in Northern Ireland.”

Earlier yesterday Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill warned there was no alternative to the protocol ahead of a meeting with Lord Frost.

Speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference in Belfast, she called for jobs and livelihoods to be “safeguarded” and the all-island economy to be “strengthened”.

“The protocol was the alternative to the backstop, which was painstakingly negotiated, agreed and ratified by the Westminster Parliament and by the European Parliament by no less than David Frost himself, who is now trying to renegotiate. It’s an international law, it must be respected,” she said.

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