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Protocol will remain and people will suffer after Givan resignation – Beattie

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The Brexit protocol will remain and the people of Northern Ireland will suffer after Paul Givan’s resignation as First Minister, UUP leader Doug Beattie has warned.

The resignation of the DUP’s Mr Givan has sparked criticism from parties across the divide at Stormont.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and deputy leader Nichola Mallon said they have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the latest threat to devolved government at Stormont, which they described as a “gross betrayal of people in Northern Ireland”.

Speaking to reporters in Stormont, Mr Beattie condemned “another manufactured crisis”.

He said it will have one effect – the instability of Northern Ireland – adding that the people will suffer.

“They have suffered enough and they are going to suffer more. They will suffer in the medium term and they will suffer in the long term and all politicians should be standing here and everything that they do they should be doing for the betterment of the people of Northern Ireland,” Mr Beattie said.

“For unionists, this is absolutely crazy because we are moving into a situation where we will end up having to come back with our tail between our legs and we have allowed people to lead us down that road for far, far too long and it is time for change.

“People are going to have to start looking at their unionist leadership and see who is really leading here, because what I’m seeing from those who call themselves the leaders of unionism is no leadership whatsoever.”

Mr Beattie added: “If there is changes to the protocol in the coming weeks and months it will be because of the hard work that is done behind the scenes to get those through negotiations.

“It will not be done by a minister resigning from their post, we will have no first minister come tomorrow morning and if that’s the case the protocol will still be here, in a week’s time the protocol will still be here, in a month’s time the protocol will still be there, but we’ll not have a first minister and therefore the people will suffer because decisions will not be made by people not doing their jobs.”

MP Mr Eastwood said: “The actions of the DUP leadership represent a gross betrayal of people in Northern Ireland.

“Whatever community you’re from, whatever your background or beliefs, no-one benefits from this cynical, and totally predictable, electioneering stunt.

“Resigning from government when people are struggling to provide for their families, heat their homes and deal with the cost of living tells you all you need to know about the DUP – for them the party will always come first and ordinary people come last.

Heavy goods vehicles waiting to be checked at Belfast Docks (Peter Morrison/PA)
Heavy goods vehicles waiting to be checked at Belfast Docks (Peter Morrison/PA)

“People deserve better than a choice between bad government or no government.

“That has been the cycle of the last 15 years and it has delivered nothing but failure. It is time to break that cycle and offer people a different choice.”

Meanwhile, DUP MP Sammy Wilson rejected accusations of his party being engaged in a “political stunt” by stopping Brexit checks at Northern Ireland’s ports.

“That allegation was made again when we stopped the building of the posts, when we stopped the charges being imposed on vehicles, when we stopped the recruitment of further officials to carry out the checks,” he told the BBC.

“Although people call them political stunts, they haven’t challenged them and those decisions still stand and those decisions are still impacting on the ability of the protocol to be delivered.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson denied the decision to stop Brexit checks is a political stunt (Liam McBurney/PA)
DUP MP Sammy Wilson denied the decision to stop Brexit checks is a political stunt (Liam McBurney/PA)

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the move would create a “Zombie Executive” that is unable to function.

She said: “Without a First Minister, the Executive is unable to meet. We then have a zombie Executive, unable to bring new legislation, initiate significant new policy or take any action requiring an Executive decision.

“That has potentially dire implications for vital public services, given we have yet to agree a budget for next year.

“Without certainty on future funding, progress on tackling hospital waiting lists and implementing much-needed health reforms, recovering courts from Covid backlogs, and a whole raft of legislation, from integrated education to climate change to protecting victims of sexual offences and human trafficking, could all be jeopardised, and more.”

But Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister said it was “about time” the resignation happened.

“We have long said that if the price of Stormont is the implementation of the protocol, that it was a price no unionist should pay, or ever should have paid,” he said.

“The protocol is so fundamentally destructive of our integral position within the United Kingdom that it must go in all its parts.”

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