Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has accused British prime minister Boris Johnson of “pandering” to the DUP while they prevent an Executive from forming in Northern Ireland.
Only one party was blocking a new Executive and stopping it from addressing issues such as health and “putting money into people’s pockets,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Boris Johnson was now going to break a document that he had signed, the Northern Ireland Protocol, and that would lead to further economic instability, she warned.
She said Mr Johnson’s visit to the North on Monday had not been helpful and nobody could “trust a word” from him or the Northern Secretary, Brandon Lewis.
They intend to go down a route to legislate, to override an international agreement, at a time when there needed to be continued negotiations between the EU and the UK, she said.
Embarking on such a route – threatening to override an international agreement – was going to cause damage to the economic institutions of Northern Ireland, she added.
Ms O'Neill said the North was a pawn in the middle of a game of chicken between the UK and the EU. She urged both sides to sit down and agree solutions, and said all energy should go into finding a way forward.
Speaking on the same programme EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said there had been “a lot of spinning” by the British government in the past week which had left the EU confused. She acknowledged that relations were strained, but that the EU had the political will to resolve the outstanding issues of the protocol.
“We have to do it together,” she said.
Any threat of unilateral action by the UK would not do anything to unlock the problems for the people of Northern Ireland who do not want further destabilisation.
“We’ve tried to remain very calm. We will be very measured.”
There will not be a knee-jerk reaction from the EU, she said. “We put forward a lot of proposals, but there hasn’t been a lot of engagement. The truth is Northern Ireland was not considered during the Referendum (Brexit) in 2016.”
The idea that the UK could “tear up” what was on the table and “start from scratch” was a delaying tactic. The issue could be solved with political will, but unilateral action would make the situation worse.
When asked about the threat of trade wars as suggested by DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, Ms McGuinness said the EU was not going to start talking about trade wars. “Every time we come forward with good proposals they are pocketed and not discussed. Retaliation and threats are not words we use.” However, the idea that the EU would do nothing was not going to help the people of Northern Ireland. “We have to reset relations.”
The EU did not have a list of what it would do when “what if” situations arose, she said. There would have to be a strong reaction if unilateral action was threatened.
There was a solution, but it was not for only one side, who could not say ‘take it or leave it’. The EU was very alert to the concerns of the Unionist community, but that did not mean they were going to “go entirely to their side.”
“We have to get balance here. We’re here to get a balanced solution.”