DUP will never be allowed veto on post-Brexit border plans – Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein has insisted the DUP will never be allowed to wield a Stormont veto on the post-Brexit arrangements for the Irish border.
Deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said there were no circumstances in which it would be acceptable for her former partners in government to have the power to block the continuation of Northern Ireland specific customs and regulatory measures.
She was reacting to reports the Government is proposing handing the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote on whether to extend the suggested “two borders/four years” arrangements beyond an initial timeframe of 2025.
Stormont voting structures mean a bloc of MLAs from either the nationalist and unionist community can veto certain decisions, even if a majority of members back them.
Ms O’Neill was commenting on the potential of the DUP exercising that power on a potential vote in 2025 on extending an arrangement that would see customs checks being carried out on the island of Ireland and regulatory checks at the ports.
“Boris Johnson has today again rehearsed this role for the Stormont Assembly, an Assembly which currently does not sit, currently does not sit because of the position of the DUP and the Tories and because of Brexit,” she said.
“There can be no situation whatsoever when the DUP are going to be afforded a veto, a lock, a blocking mechanism of any form in which to thwart any progress that could potentially be made on Brexit between both the EU and the British government.
“It is just a nonsense, an illogical statement to make and to keep making it over and over again.”
She branded Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit proposals as a “political game changer” that drives a “coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement”.
“What we’ve heard from Boris Johnson today offers no assurances, no comfort, no certainty for the people and the business community here,” Ms O’Neill said outside Sinn Fein’s offices in west Belfast.
“At the end of the day the bottom line here is there will never be a circumstance whenever the DUP will be afforded a veto over Brexit and over the future relationship on this island.”
Ms O’Neill dismissed the suggestion of a time limit to a backstop arrangement.
“A backstop with a time limit actually ceases to become a backstop,” she said.
The party’s Stormont leader also reiterated her opposition to any hardening of the border.
Ms O’Neill suggested Mr Johnson’s approach would make the restoration of power sharing more difficult.
“I think what Boris Johnson has stated earlier drives a coach and horses through the Good Friday Agreement, so that I think is a political game changer,” she said.
“I think that does make our politics more difficult here.”
The Sinn Fein vice president also criticised the DUP.
“The DUP are on the wrong side of the Brexit argument – they have been from day one,” she said.
“They have hitched their wagon to the Tories. They have continually actively worked against the interests of the people who live on this island and the position they have adopted even in the last 24 hours is further evidence of that.
“They are not acting in the interests of people here. They are prioritising the Union over the interests of people here and they are prepared to sit back and watch all industries here go to the wall because of this reckless Tory/DUP agenda.”