By Amanda Ferguson
BELFAST (Reuters) – The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) warned the British government on Saturday that there is no way they will restore power sharing government in Northern Ireland unless post-Brexit trade checks to the region are removed.
Following a lengthy stalemate, Britain and the European Union resumed talks this week on how to fix problems relating to the Northern Ireland protocol that introduced the checks last year on some goods coming from the rest of the United Kingdom.
A day after Ireland and Britain talked up an improved mood in talks, members gathered at the DUP’s annual conference said they feared being let down by London again after being promised there would be no checks when the Brexit deal was struck.
“The government needs to tread sensitively and act wisely if they wish to see unionist confidence rebuilt and the conditions created for durable power sharing,” DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said to applause from the crowd of more than 200 delegates.
Perceptions that the protocol erodes Northern Ireland’s place in the UK have sparked anger among many in pro-British communities.
The DUP, Northern Ireland’s largest unionist party, resigned its post of first minister in February in protest at the checks and has refused to enter the devolved parliament since elections in May. The Stormont Assembly, a key part of a 1998 peace deal, cannot function without the DUP’s support.
“I don’t trust (the UK government) to do the right thing but I think ultimately they’re going to be forced to because there is now a choice to make, it’s either the protocol or Stormont. One or the other,” Jonathan Craig, a DUP councillor from the city of Lisburn told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.
Describing the protocol as a “heinous imposition,” DUP chairman Maurice Morrow said there was no prospect of the party re-entering government unless the protocol is replaced.
(Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Ros Russell)