Danny Kennedy’s comments came ahead of a visit to Northern Ireland by Brexit Minister Lord Frost for meetings with the main Stormont parties to update them on negotiations with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Mr Kennedy said: “The protocol isn’t working and needs to be replaced with new arrangements which work for everyone. Instead of bombastic rhetoric, and threats to pull down Stormont, we need an absolute focus brought to the current set of negotiations.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who was due to meet Brexit Minister Lord Frost in Belfast tonight, said he has not detected that the UK Government has “resiled” from its stance.
“The Prime Minister said no later than last evening that it is entirely valid for the UK Government to trigger Article 16 in circumstances where agreement has not been reached in these negotiations.
“I’m taking the Government at what they were saying as being their position and I will test that further with Lord Frost.”
UUP party leader Doug Beattie was also due to meet Lord Frost but said he was “not expecting a significant update”.
He said: “I’m hoping for an honest evaluation. And I pledge that we will keep working to fix the many problems that we have in regards to this.”
UUP chairman Mr Kennedy’s comments did not sit well with TUV party chairman Jordan Armstrong, who commented: “The statement by the UUP chairman warning against collapsing Stormont is entirely wrong.
“It is clear that pressure needs to be brought to bear on the UK Government and the EU. No one is suggesting that this will be easy but Unionism needs to get serious. When it comes to the Protocol we are dealing with a threat to the Union.”
He added: “Unionists need to ask themselves what Stormont is delivering for them. A few months ago the DUP agreed Irish language legislation. What is the next thing Unionists will have to accept to keep Stormont alive? What’s the point of having power if the price is using that power to do things you do not want to do – such as implementing the Protocol?
“Unionism needs to force London and the EU to face the choice of Stormont or Protocol. Until we reach that point Unionism’s protestations on the Protocol will, I fear, not be treated seriously.”
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