NOTfter the election victory of the nationalist party Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, tensions between London and the EU threaten to increase. According to newspaper reports, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has increased pressure on Brussels to drastically change or scrap the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, which is part of the Brexit deal. The London government is advocating for the “preservation of peace and stability” in the province, which has been marked by civil war for many years. There are threats of “unilateral measures” if a solution is not found quickly. The Brexit Treaty gives Northern Ireland a special status and created a goods border with Great Britain.
The backdrop to the escalating tone is the unionist DUP’s refusal to form a government with Sinn Fein until the protocol is changed. The DUP, which had provided Northern Ireland’s premier since 2007, fell to second place in Thursday’s election and is now expected to appoint the deputy premier to enable a power-sharing deal in Belfast.
The Good Friday agreement undermined?
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson pointed out over the weekend that 40% of voters supported parties opposed to the protocol. Since a government in Northern Ireland must be based on “bipartite consensus”, there is currently no basis to work from. For the first time, Sinn Fein will have the largest group in parliament with 90 seats and will be represented by 27 MPs. The DUP has only 25 seats left. The Alliance party, which sees itself as a cross camp, also recorded solid gains with 17 seats. Overall, nationalists and trade unionists are about equally strong in the chamber.
The Foreign Office in London said over the weekend that negotiations had ‘come to the end of the road’ since EU negotiator Maroš Šefčovič Truss decided by phone in late April that the EU had no mandate to change the Brexit treaty. The Good Friday Agreement, which ended the civil war in 1998, was “undermined” by the protocol, and the situation was now “very serious”, he said. “The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have always made it clear that if no solution can be found, action will be taken.”
Beergate inquiry into Labor leader Starmer
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Britain’s opposition leader Keir Starmer, who faces allegations of breaching corona rules. After police in Durham, northern England, confirmed at the weekend that they were investigating Beergate, there have been calls for him to step down. Starmer is baffled at calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step down after London police launched an investigation into ‘Partygate’. At the same time, a Labor Party program released to the press cast doubt on Starmer’s earlier account. According to the plan, 80 minutes had been allocated for eating and drinking at the end of the day.
Starmer had previously claimed to have “only briefly interrupted” an event at the Durham campaign office in April last year to reinforce himself with his colleagues. During the meeting, he was filmed in a small room surrounded by employees with a beer in his hand. While Tory politicians accused the opposition leader of “hypocrisy”, he was defended within his own ranks. It was “ridiculous” to carefully compare Starmer’s to that of the prime minister, Labor said.