Northern Ireland: DUP puts pressure on the EU

Status: 04.02.2022 15:52

A government crisis with intentions: the resignation of Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Givan is aimed at the EU. His party wants to increase the pressure in the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

By Christoph Prössl, ARD Studio London

In the morning, the leader of Northern Ireland’s DUP party, Jeffrey Donaldson, explained in an interview why Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister Paul Givan, who also belongs to the pro-British party, has resigned. He said: “What we want to achieve is a clear signal to the government in London and to the European Union. We are not prepared to sit and watch as the Northern Ireland Protocol is imposed on us. It damages our economy every day and is divisive society.”

Christoph Proessl
ARD-Studio London

However, the damage to the economy cannot be proven for the economy as a whole. Northern Ireland is doing relatively well. Trade with the Republic of Ireland in particular has grown significantly – but so has trade with Great Britain.

Stop the controls did not last

On Wednesday, Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots announced that product controls on agricultural products from Great Britain should be stopped. The DUP criticizes the maritime border in the Irish Sea, which provides for corresponding controls on trade between Northern Ireland and England, Scotland and Wales. However, Poots’ order was not implemented.

Prime Minister Paul Givan’s resignation is seen as a move to increase pressure on London and Brussels.

The move triggered criticism from the EU, Ireland and Germany. Contracts must be observed, said the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Franziska Brantner. It is about protecting the European internal market.

“Other options” instead of trade limit

The British government has been negotiating with the EU for months on the Northern Ireland Protocol and goods controls – apparently too slowly for the Unionists in Northern Ireland.

The DUP was pro-Brexit. But Donaldson did not give any suggestions as to how the problem could be solved. Speaking to the BBC, he remained vague: “We believe there are ways to protect Northern Ireland’s position in the UK trading area while protecting the EU’s internal market,” he said. A trade border within the UK is not necessary.

The Northern Ireland Protocol aims to ensure that EU rules apply in Ireland – with no physical controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was abolished in the 1998 Peace Agreement. An important part of the important Good Friday deal that ended the riots in Ireland.

The resignation of the head of government is also a domestic political problem: the DUP had agreed on a coalition government with Sinn Fein just eight months ago. Sinn Fein is now calling for early elections. The next elections are normally held in May.

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