Last thing EU wants! Truss just handed bombshell weapon in Brexit talks – ex-MEP

Brexit: DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson slams Northern Ireland protocol

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Paul Givan, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, resigned from his post on Thursday evening after just over eight months in the job. The resignation has been perceived as part of the DUP’s escalating strategy against the hated Northern Ireland Protocol. It comes only 24 hours after DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots ordered agri-food checks required under the post-Brexit trading arrangement to be halted.

The orders have not been followed and checks are continuing.

Mr Givan’s resignation automatically means Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, of Sinn Féin, also loses her position.

Sinn Féin has called for an early assembly election as a result.

But the chaos ensuing from the DUP’s actions could work to Ms Truss’s advantage in her negotiations with the EU, according to a Brexiteer and former Member of European Parliament.

Former Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn told “This resignation will undoubtedly increase pressure on the EU to show more flexibility in negotiations to reform the protocol.

“The last thing Brussels wants is for anti-protocol parties to win a majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly at the forthcoming elections.

“But if the EU continues to be inflexible and insensitive to the feelings of Unionists that is more likely to happen.”

The DUP’s opponents, Sinn Fein, have criticised their decision to withdraw from Stormont as a political stunt to shore up unionist support ahead of the poll.

The DUP insists there cannot be stability at Stormont while there remains instability because of the protocol.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed by the UK and EU to ensure free movement of trade across the Irish land border after Brexit.

But unionist politicians have argued the protocol is not fit for purpose because it threatens Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has criticised the UK Government for not protecting “Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market”.

He said: “This commitment was the basis upon which we re-entered the executive in early 2020 and have participated in the political institutions since then.

“I warned that as leader of the DUP, I was not prepared to lend my hand to a protocol which so fundamentally undermines the union and the economic integrity of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland’s position in it.”

The comments come as Ms Truss prepares to enter crunch talks with her EU counterpart, Maros Sefcovic, to resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Ms Truss took over the Brexit brief from her predecessor Lord Frost, who resigned in December, and had initially been praised by the EU for creating “a constructive atmosphere with the aim to advance the talks”.

However, following talks in Brussels last week, Mr Sefcovic reportedly told member states he is “frustrated” and warned there is “no prospect of an imminent breakthrough in the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiations.

He described the meeting as “frustrating” and “difficult”.

Their talks aim to find a diplomatic solution to the protocol which would avoid either side triggering Article 16 – the clause which allows either side to suspend any part of the agreement that causes “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

The UK is calling for changes, which include axing checks and paperwork between the UK and NI, ensuring goods only need to meet British standards without abiding by EU law, and stripping the European Court of Justice from overseeing the protocol.

The EU has said a renegotiation of the text of the protocol is a red line it will not cross.

However, it has set out alternative proposals, including an 80 percent reduction on food arriving in NI, halving the amount of paperwork, passing legislation to allow medicines to pass from the UK to NI and relaxing rules on chilled meats.

The European Commission has criticised the DUP for creating “further uncertainty and unpredictability” but a spokesperson confirmed Mr Sefcovic would re-enter negotiations with Ms Truss on Thursday afternoon.

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