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DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson renews threat to collapse Stormont over Brexit NI Protocol

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has renewed a threat to collapse Stormont unless progress is made over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In a statement, Sir Jeffrey said that he was still prepared to trigger an early election after previously stating the party could walk away from the Assembly by November.

He has also called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to trigger Article 16 if the recent talks are unproductive.

The mechanism would allow either the UK or EU to unilaterally suspend part of the Brexit deal it was leading to serious problems.

It follows comments from the the UK’s Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, who said that that EU proposals to address tensions in the Northern Ireland protocol don’t go far enough.

In his statement, Sir Jeffrey said: “The Protocol is costing Northern Ireland £850m per year, it is polluting politics, undermining the Union and is diverting trade within the United Kingdom. It is time for this unacceptable Irish Sea border to go.”

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He continued: “Last month, I warned London and Brussels that the Northern Ireland Assembly mandate could not be sustained if the Government continued to stand by the Protocol and unionist Ministers are forced to implement measures harmful to our place in the UK. That remains my position.”

He said that he was glad that Brussels had returned to the table, but endless negotiations were not enough.

“It is welcome that the Prime Minister wants to see rapid progress and recognises that the conditions to trigger article 16 have already been met,” he said.

“If Brussels is not prepared the make the kind of changes envisaged in the July Command Paper, then it is time for the Government to act unilaterally and protect this part of the United Kingdom in line duty it’s (New Decade New Approach) commitment.

“If the Government fails to act, then I will have no option but ask the people of Northern Ireland to make their voice heard at the ballot box.”

Earlier today in the House of Commons, Sir Jeffrey also called on the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to stop “tinkering around the edges” of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said failing to remove “unnecessary checks and impediments to trade within the United Kingdom is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Lewis said he agreed that it was essential to have a free flow of goods between the UK and Northern Ireland.

"We are determined to deliver that. I know sadly that the opposition party have been quite clear previously that they are quite happy to see a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

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