DUP Ministers urged to quit roles by unionist rival Jim Allister after High Court rules boycott of North-South meetings unlawful

DUP ministers have been urged to resign after a judge ruled that a boycott of North-South ministerial council meetings is unlawful.

Tuesday, 12th October 2021, 1:21 am
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 11th October 2021 TUV leader Jim Allister arrives at the High Court in Belfast where he and other Unionist leaders are taking a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Northern Ireland Protocol is a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK which came into place at the start of the year when BREXIT started. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The boycott was announced by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson last month, as he outlined a strategy to oppose the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He also suggested that his party’s ministers could withdraw from the Northern Ireland Executive “within weeks” in the absence of action on the Protocol — a move that would collapse the powersharing institutions at Stormont.

The ruling that the boycott of North-South meetings is unlawful came at the High Court in Belfast yesterday.

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The TUV leader Jim Allister has said the development now leaves his unionist rivals with a choice — to “climb down and facilitate the Protocol” or to resign. He is urging them to resign.

The DUP, meanwhile, has not said explicity whether its ministers will do so but a party spokesperson last night warned against a “further deterioration in political and economic stability in Northern Ireland”.

The party said yesterday’s ruling is “further proof” that the conditions required to suspend parts of the Protocol, through a safeguard mechanism known as Article 16, have now been met.

And in a dramatic day of legal developments, a pan-unionist legal challenge to the Northern Ireland Protocol has been put on hold amid claims of a potential change in the UK government’s position.

A bid to overturn a previous ruling that the Protocol is lawful was due to get underway at the Court of Appeal in Belfast yesterday, but it was put on ice amid an expectation of further negotiations.

Meanwhile, the EU is expected to outline what it has described as “far-reaching proposals” tomorrow in a bid to resolve issues with the Protocol.

Urging his unionist rivals to withdraw from office entirely — a move that would pull down the powersharing institutions at Stormont — Mr Allister said: “Ultimately the DUP has a choice to make. Are DUP Ministers going to climb down and facilitate the Protocol?

“Alternatively are they going to resign? Untimely that is the choice.”

He continued: “By ceasing to be minister you cease to be under any obligation to operate North-South relations while East-West links are trashed. The Union dismantling Protocol partitions the UK and treats Great Britain as a third country. If one is a Unionist and can only be a Minister if you are party to that trashing the only honourable course is to resign.”