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Northern Ireland would be in a ‘very dangerous place’ if protocol is scrapped claims Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill

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Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Any move to unilaterally override parts of the protocol would put Northern Ireland in a “very dangerous place” due to potential retaliation from the EU.

That was the warning from Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, who told RTE’s Morning Ireland plans from UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to potentially set out the government’s response to the protocol would see Northern Ireland “caught out in the middle of a game of chicken”.

Sinn Fein were one of the five parties who met Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Belfast on Monday.

Ahead of his meeting with the parties and writing in the Belfast Telegraph, the Prime Minister said “there will be a necessity to act” if the EU did not change its position on the protocol.

It comes as Ms Truss is expected to address MPs in Westminster on Tuesday on the next steps to deal with the protocol amid a political crisis in Stormont.

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Ms O’Neill told RTE the potential action puts politics here in a “very dangerous place” and “furthers instability politically”.

“I don’t think anybody could trust the word of Brandon Lewis or Boris Johnson,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Essentially what you can put it down to is they intend to go down this route of legislating to override an international agreement. That is not the way to conduct business.

“Potentially at some stage we could face retaliation from the EU and the north is caught out in the middle. We are caught out in the middle of this game of chicken.

“What we said to him is that there are ways to smooth the implementation of the protocol. That is the way forward, not unilateral action.”

Earlier, Mr Lewis said there had been no intention to introduce legislation this week to unilaterally overwrite parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol, after some previous reports had suggested an imminent move.

The Northern Ireland Secretary, who was asked whether plans to introduce domestic legislation this week had been delayed until the summer, told Sky News: "Something like that this week was never on the cards.

"We're still debating the Queen's Speech and won't finish debating the Queen's Speech and voting on that until later this week, later tomorrow, so in that sense it was never on the cards.

"But what we have always said is that we will not take anything off the table.

"We will do what we need to do to ensure that products can move to Northern Ireland in the way that they should be able to move to Northern Ireland from Great Britain as part of the United Kingdom internal market, something the protocol itself says it will respect but at the moment is not working properly.

"We would like to do that by agreement with the EU but we reserve the right to do what we need to do to do the right thing for the people of Northern Ireland and the wider United Kingdom."

Ms Truss is expected to cover a series of broad themes on what the legislation will include, but the actual wording of the legislation will not be published until sometime next month, before moving on to a first and second reading.

The DUP has said that publishing the proposed bill would in itself not be enough for the party to form an Executive and that it would need to wait on the provisions advancing first.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “The tabling of legislation is words. 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. But let’s see what the Government are prepared to do.”

However, the announcement by Ms Truss just may be enough for the party to nominate a Speaker, which would allow the Assembly to operate in shadow form.


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