Leading article

Boris Johnson must respect Stormont and Dail

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was stating the obvious at the weekend when he said that the UK has so far failed to come up with proposals which are capable of breaking the Brexit deadlock and allowing deeper negotiations to follow.

Mr Varadkar, speaking at a Fine Gael event in Dublin, insisted there was still time for progress to be made, but, with a crucial EU summit to take place on October 17 and 18, it is clear that the British government has only days to produce a substantially overhauled blueprint.

Boris Johnson needs to start by accepting that his bizarre suggestion about a revived Stormont Assembly supervising post-Brexit arrangements on the border in Ireland should be withdrawn.

There is of course not the slightest indication that our devolved structures are capable of being restored in the foreseeable future, particularly with the forthcoming report of the public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal expected to place a further intense spotlight on the credibility of senior DUP figures.

However, even if business at Parliament Buildings can somehow be eventually resumed, Mr Johnson needs to realise that a decisive majority of MLAs entirely reject any implication that the DUP will be allowed to veto key developments.

The British prime minister has suggested that Northern Ireland could continue to apply EU legislation relating to agricultural and other products, but only if Assembly members provided their consent every four years.

This would require a cross-community Stormont vote which could be potentially blocked by the DUP, even though it holds just 28 of the 90 seats in the chamber.

Mr Johnson must surely realise that a measure with serious consequences for Northern Ireland which is opposed not only by two thirds of Assembly members but also the main business and farming organisations is entirely unsustainable.

Although his Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay hinted yesterday that changes to the mechanism were possible, it is quite possible Mr Johnson is still playing political games and is fully prepared to face a catastrophic no deal exit from the EU as long he remains in power.

If Mr Johnson instead really wants to protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, it is essential that he respects the views of the overwhelming majority of elected representatives in both Stormont and indeed the Dail.

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