Crunch time! Resignations inevitable as EU refuses to budge on despised Brexit deal

Article 16: Conditions to trigger 'already been met' says Givan

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Meanwhile former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib suggested the decision had turned the heat up in Northern Ireland “dramatically” – and simultaneously heaped more pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The move by the Lagan Valley MLA is part of the DUP’s escalating protest strategy against the Protocol, the mechanism agreed by the UK and the EU to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Givan said the Protocol, which has created trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, had undermined a cornerstone of power-sharing in the region – governance with the consent of both nationalists and unionists.

His resignation automatically removed Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill from her position as well.

Ms Hoey, a committed Unionist who stood down as an MP in 2019, told “This was inevitable as there has been no sign of serious changes to the Protocol by the EU.

“Pro-Union people in Northern Ireland feel absolutely abandoned and fed up with Article 16 not being invoked.”

She added: “This is crunch time for the Government. The Good Friday Agreement has been shattered by the undermining of the consent principle.

“All those in the EU who constantly said the Protocol was to preserve the peace agreement should now apologise as it has caused the crisis now in Northern Ireland.

“The Government has to choose between peace and stability in NI or the anti-Union Protocol.”

Mr Habib has been a vocal opponent of the Protocol – as well as an equally vocal critic of Mr Johnson – in recent months.

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Last year, along with Ms Hoey, he spearheaded an ultimately unsuccessful challenge to its legality in Belfast’s High Court.

In respect of Mr Givan’s announcement and its potential impact on the Northern Ireland Assembly, he said: “I think it’s very serious.

“It ends Stormont. It comes hard on the heels of Edwin Poots instructing the end of border checks (with which the NI civil service did not comply).

“The temperature in NI just went up dramatically.

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“It also comes when the PM is in deep trouble. The timing couldn’t be worse.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that his party has been “very patient” around talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He added: “The Assembly has not been suspended. The Assembly continues to operate fully as a legislature.

“Legislation will be considered in the Assembly right up to the date when the assembly is dissolved for the election. I think that we have been very patient.”

The protocol was causing “societal damage” to Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey claimed.

He added: “We waited months and months and months, and no progress has been made in the talks between the UK and the EU.

“Last week I met the Prime Minister in London. I asked the Prime Minister what his assessment was of the likelihood of agreement being reached with the EU by the deadline set by the EU, which is mid-February.

“The Prime Minister told me – I appreciate his candour – that he estimated probably between 20 percent and 30 percent chance of an agreement.”

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