Direct Rule is not the answer warns Stewart

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Direct Rule is not the answer warns Stewart

East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA, John Stewart has warned that those unionists calling for the total collapse of Stormont and the reintroduction of Direct Rule until the Protocol issues are resolved, should be careful of the long-term implications of such a strategy.   

John Stewart said:

“The Ulster Unionist Party has never supported the Protocol and is totally opposed to an Irish Sea Border. We have been consistent in that approach since the Protocol first emerged in October 2019.  

“That is not something which the DUP can say. On 2 October 2019 the then DUP Leader Arlene Foster endorsed the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals as a “serious and sensible way forward”.

“Jeffrey Donaldson, in a BBC Spotlight TV programme on 2 March 2020, said ‘in the end customs checks doesn’t mean that you change the constitutional status of a part of the United Kingdom, that’s not going to happen. Already we’re seeing political parties and business leaders coming together to see how we may actually exploit the opportunities that might arise from this situation…’

“That seems a long time ago.

“The key question now is how we oppose the Protocol without causing even greater damage to Northern Ireland and gambling with the future of the Union itself. Those who call for the collapse of Stormont and the return of Direct Rule should be careful of the long-term implications.

“Firstly, in 1998 Unionists were desperate to return powers to Stormont via the Belfast Agreement in order to end the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which was universally unpopular with Unionists due to the consultative role given to Dublin. 

“Secondly, anyone who wants a return to Direct Rule should ponder on the history of Direct Rule and be absolutely clear as to what could emerge, not least an Anglo-Irish Agreement Mark 2, whereby London deals directly with Dublin on Northern Ireland issues and bypasses Belfast – and Unionism – completely.

“Thirdly, they need to reflect upon the fact that the Protocol was negotiated by the UK Government - led by Boris Johnson - with the EU, and then imposed upon Northern Ireland.

“Collapsing Stormont because you want to see the removal of the Protocol, and returning all powers to the very Prime Minister who negotiated the Protocol in the first place does not seem to be a very logical or tactically sound strategy from a pro-Union perspective.”