Northern Ireland’s second largest unionist party will not follow a DUP threat to pull its ministers from Stormont over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his ministers will resign if changes to the protocol are not delivered.
Mr Donaldson also announced his party’s immediate withdrawal from cross-border political institutions established on the island of Ireland under the Good Friday peace agreement.
We simply cannot afford to have the Stormont institutions collapse
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said his party is also opposed to the protocol, but said he wanted to provide “pragmatic solutions and engagement”.
“While the DUP will provide threats leading to instability and further harming our people here in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“I certainly won’t be asking my party to withdraw from the Executive when we are still dealing with a Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences on a health service which is facing challenges on an unprecedented scale.
“We simply cannot afford to have the Stormont institutions collapse and people, not least those hundreds of thousands on waiting lists, won’t thank us for it.
— Ulster Unionist (@uuponline) September 9, 2021
“We will engage constructively and put forward practical solutions as we seek to replace the protocol.
“We continue to lobby rather than threaten. Unionism needs to show confidence in its own abilities. Now is not the time to retreat to the trenches.
“The UK government’s Command Paper provides a potential pathway out of the protocol mess and unionism should be using its influence within the democratic structures to hold the government to account for delivering on it.
Meanwhile TUV leader Jim Allister described “fine words” from Mr Donaldson, but said “it is actions that count”.
“Presenting the prime minister with the stark choice of saving the protocol or saving the Stormont institutions is a long-proclaimed TUV strategy, built on the realisation that if the price of Stormont is implementing the union-dismantling protocol then Stormont is unsustainable for any unionist who puts the union first,” he said.
“Likewise operating north-southery while our east-west links are trashed is utter folly.
“The down payment on Unionist intent and determination should be the immediate ending of all Daera checks.
“The protocol, which the High Court says has already repealed the foundation of the economic United Kingdom, is a vehicle to destroy the union, having already delivered us into a foreign economic zone and subjected us to foreign laws.
“Hence, it is beyond redemption. It must go.
“Mere tinkering is not an option, nor is repackaging it as something capable of being controlled through new Belfast Agreement institutions, such aids, not inhibits the protocol and its building of the stepping stone of an all-Ireland economy.”