Digital Desk Staff
The leader of the DUP has warned that the party would have difficulty reforming a Stormont Executive after the upcoming Assembly election if issues with the Northern Ireland protocol are not resolved.
As The Irish Times reports, the Northern Ireland Executive has formally been shorn of governing powers after DUP First Minister Paul Givan quit the administration.
Mr Givan’s resignation, which came into effect at midnight, automatically removed Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill from the role of Deputy First Minister.
Other Stormont ministers can remain in post but the Executive can no longer meet and is unable to take significant policy decisions.
The move by Mr Givan, a Lagan Valley MLA, is part of the DUP’s escalating protest strategy against the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol.
An Assembly election is already scheduled for May, but Mr Givan’s departure raises the prospect of that poll being brought forward several weeks.
Post-Brexit trading arrangements
All ministers will leave their posts ahead of any election and a new administration can only be formed following the poll if the positions of first and deputy first ministers are filled by the largest unionist and largest nationalist parties.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson suggested on Friday that his party would only return to an executive if its concerns around the post-Brexit trading arrangements are addressed.
“I’ve withdrawn the First Minister on the basis that the protocol issues have not been addressed despite clear commitments and promises given by the [British] prime minister that they would be addressed, and clearly if the protocol issues are not resolved by the time of the election then, of course, it is difficult for us to form a government because of the instability that the protocol creates,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.
“I have made my position clear – I think there is now an opportunity for the [UK] government and the EU to step up.
"The EU said consistently that the purpose of the protocol was to protect the political institutions, political stability and the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement.