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Northern Ireland faces second vote in six months as DUP boycott persists

The largest pro-British party is refusing to back the election of a speaker of the assembly, ensuring the deadline for forming a power-sharing government is missed.

Northern Ireland faces the prospect of a second election in six months after the region’s largest pro-British party refused to drop its boycott of a power-sharing government, citing concerns about post-Brexit trade rules.

An election is likely to prolong a political deadlock that has frozen parts of the region’s administration and will highlight deep political divisions over trade rules just as Britain and the European Union try to find a compromise.

At an emergency session of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said on Thursday it would not back a speaker choice, effectively ensuring that the six-month deadline to form is missed. government after the May elections.

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Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that largely ended 30 years of sectarian bloodshed in the region, nationalists who seek independence and unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom must stand side by side. agreement on a speaker before electing a cross-community representative. government.

“We don’t think enough progress has been made to address the issues that are of concern to the people we represent,” DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson told reporters.

‘It won’t change anything’

Chris Heaton-Harris, the UK government minister for Northern Ireland, has repeatedly said that if he fails to form a government by the end of Thursday he would be legally forced to call new elections even though the main parties in the region have said that a vote would be taken. do little to break the deadlock.

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“There is no doubt that having an election at this time is not going to change anything in terms of the problems and challenges that we have in Northern Ireland,” Donaldson said.

Heaton-Harris would have 12 weeks to call an election, but Northern Ireland media have reported that local officials are preparing for a possible mid-December vote.

The DUP, which withdrew from power-sharing in February, says it will not join the power-sharing government until its concerns about post-Brexit trade deals for the region set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.

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Talks on the issue between the European Union and the British government over the protocol, part of Britain’s EU divorce treaty, have been stalled by political turmoil in London.

Protect the single market

Brussels, which says controls on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland are needed to protect its single market in the wake of Brexit as a land border with the EU member Republic of Ireland, has signaled an opening to ease some of the controls.

But the DUP insists there should be no restrictions on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, something the EU has said it will not accept.

Some Irish nationalist politicians have accused the DUP of using protocol concerns as a cover to avoid serving under a Sinn Fein prime minister after the nationalist party won the most seats for the first time in 100 years in May. history of the region.

Opinion polls have indicated that a new election is unlikely to significantly change the outcome of the May election.

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