DUBLIN, Ireland: A Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP, Sammy Wilson, has asserted that implementing a vital component of the Windsor Framework this weekend will affirm the existence of a border in the Irish Sea.
Wilson has also indicated that his party cannot currently return to the power-sharing institutions at Stormont as it would be legally obligated to execute the framework. The DUP has been withholding power-sharing for over a year in protest against the internal United Kingdom (UK) trade barriers introduced by Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol.
The party has expressed dissatisfaction with the deal between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom, known as the Windsor Framework, arguing that it does not adequately address its concerns. The DUP has stated that it will not consider a return to devolution until the UK government provides additional assurances through legislation regarding Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market.
One of the primary aspects of the framework, the green/red lane system for goods movement, will become operational at Northern Ireland ports this weekend. Goods destined for the Republic of Ireland or other EU countries will use the red lane, involving customs declarations and some checks. Goods intended for sale in Northern Ireland will utilize the green lane, requiring minimal paperwork and no checks. Companies using the green lane will be part of a trusted trader scheme.
Wilson stated, "On October 1, it will be confirmed that Northern Ireland has a border in the Irish Sea," despite the UK Prime Minister and the Secretary of State's previous assurances. He pointed out that various goods entering Northern Ireland will be checked to some extent, leading to the construction of physical border checkpoints in Larne, costing £40 million.
According to Wilson, this expenditure marks Northern Ireland as part of the EU rather than fully part of the UK, impacting the cost, variety, and transportation of goods.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that the framework agreement removed the primary obstacle to the return of the Stormont Assembly. However, Wilson contended that his party would not rejoin the government to implement the agreement. He explained, "From this weekend, there will be impediments to trade coming into Northern Ireland. There will be different laws applying in Northern Ireland without any democratic control, because EU law will apply to Northern Ireland."
Wilson further emphasized that if the DUP were back in Stormont, they would be legally obliged to facilitate the construction of the £40 million border checkpoint in the Port of Larne, along with related measures. He cited this as why unionists cannot be in Stormont, as they would be required to implement an agreement they view as detrimental to the union and Northern Ireland's people.
Sinn Fin Vice President Michelle O'Neill called for the UK and Irish governments to collaborate on a plan to restore the institutions, expressing frustration with the DUP's Assembly blockade.