By Amanda Ferguson
BELFAST (Reuters) -Britain must act to unilaterally overrule parts of the Northern Ireland protocol if talks on overhauling post-Brexit trading arrangements are not rapidly completed, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) told Reuters on Thursday.
Britain and the European Union have spent months trying to break a deadlock over how to remove many of the checks on goods coming from the rest of the United Kingdom agreed under the protocol. A British minister said on Thursday that the sides were at an impasse.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the sooner the protocol is addressed, the sooner a new government can be formed in Belfast after a May 5 election. Polls suggest Irish nationalist rivals Sinn Fein will emerge as the largest party for the first time.
Northern Ireland’s outgoing first minister, a member of the DUP, resigned in protest at the protocol in February and the party has said it will not return to the regional government until the post-Brexit checks are scrapped.
“We’re not talking about tinkering around the edges of the protocol. This is fundamental for us. The protocol needs to be replaced by arrangements that respect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market,” Donaldson said in an interview.
“We want to see rapid progress. If the EU aren’t prepared to agree to remove the Irish Sea border for goods that are moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and staying within the UK internal market, then, clearly, the UK government must take unilateral action.”
Local media has reported that London is preparing laws that would unilaterally overrule parts of the protocol. Britain has previously argued it has grounds to trigger a clause in the protocol allowing parts of the deal to be abandoned.
Donaldson said he would certainly welcome such a move in the absence of the EU “agreeing to do what is necessary.”
(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, writing by Padraic Halpin; editing by William James)