In Stormont, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson says the party will not support the election of a new speaker

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The DUP had previously indicated that it will not nominate for the position of deputy First Minister, which will prevent the forming of a new Executive, as part of its protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Sir Jeffrey said: “Today the DUP will not support the election of a speaker in the Assembly.

“Devolution was restored on the basis of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement. We have seen delivery of, or significant progress towards, nearly every aspect of that document except one.

“Some parties who just a few months ago were mocking the promise of decisive action from the DUP in relation to the protocol are the very same parties now feigning surprise and outrage at a political party keeping its promise to the electorate.

Story Highlights

  • Ninety MLAs gathered in the Assembly after last week’s election in Northern Ireland saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party for the first time.

  • Unionists oppose the post-Brexit treaty because of the economic barriers it creates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

“That is the UK government’s promise to legislate to respect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market.

“Twenty-eight months since that promise was made and 16 months since it should have been delivered, unionists cannot stand accused of lacking patience.”

He added: “I have both patience and resolve in equal measure to see the Irish Sea border removed and stable as well as sustainable devolution restored. “Unionist concerns on the Northern Ireland Protocol are not merely some political squabble which is impacting upon Stormont.

“The protocol is a direct challenge to the principles that have underpinned every agreement reached in Northern Ireland over the last 25 years. It erodes the very foundations that devolution has been built upon.” Power-sharing or Protocol? The DUP’s ultimatum to the UK government deepens the crisis in Northern Ireland.

The party’s refusal to nominate a deputy First Minister, effectively vetoing the election of Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill as First Minister, means there is no devolved government. But its refusal to support the election of a Speaker at Stormont means there will be no functioning Assembly either.

But it’s also under pressure from Capitol Hill, where the hugely influential Irish-American lobby believes the Protocol protects the Good Friday Agreement. If the UK government overrides the Protocol, it could jeopardise a post-Brexit trade deal with the USA.

The UK government finds itself under pressure to take unilateral action on the Northern Ireland Protocol – the deal with the EU that created a trade border in the Irish Sea. Without a Speaker, there can be no debates, committee meetings, private members bills or scrutiny of departmental decisions.