New pressure to move beyond Brexit deadlock

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People in the north of Ireland overwhelmingly believe Dublin should have a role in governing the region should unionists continue to block the return of power-sharing, a new poll has shown.

A poll by the Belfast Telegraph found that more than two-thirds of non-unionists believe the DUP will never serve in a Stormont executive with a Sinn Féin First Minister, and that the DUP is using its complaints over Brexit as an excuse not to restore power-sharing.

With the Stormont executive mothballed since the DUP pulled out in February, the 26 County Taoiseach Micheal Martin has suggested there is “room for the parties to look at changing the system”.

Joint authority is advocated by the largest proportion of those surveyed in the poll.

If power-sharing is permanently abandoned, 41 per cent of those polled want joint authority with London and Dublin having equal responsibility for governing the Six Counties. A further 18 per cent called on the 26 County administration to have a more consultative role in how the North is run.

Among unionists, one in four also believe the Dublin government should have at least a consultative role, although three quarters want direct rule from London to continue, with no cross-border element.

Pressure is growing internationally for a resolution of the dispute. Part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the Irish protocol allows businesses in the north of Ireland to trade easily with both Britain, the EU, including the rest of Ireland. The DUP and other hardline unionists oppose elements of the deal such as checks on trade across the Irish Sea and related legal measures.

According to the London Telegraph, US diplomats have now set a deadline of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement next April for an end to the stalemate.

US President Joe Biden visits Europe next year and is expected to attend a GFA anniversary event. White House officials have reportedly indicated that he would prefer the dispute over the protocol to be resolved by then.

On Thursday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he was confident “with goodwill and pragmatism” a deal could be reached on the protocol.

Speaking after he met with 26 County Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, Sunak said a “breakthrough” was possible, but has again failed to offer details. He apparently claimed that a deal will be reached with the EU over the protocol by April.

After a meeting with President Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Downing Street said the US President “expressed his desire for a negotiated settlement that protects the Good Friday agreement, which the prime minister agreed with”.

“The prime minister did refer to that anniversary next year and ensuring that we get a negotiated settlement that protects the Good Friday agreement by then.”

However, the talks have been hampered by a rash of misleading statements and outright lies by Tory and unionist politicians.

On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly falsely told a Westminster committee that the Protocol does not have the support of the public in the North.

Sinn Féin First Minister-delegate Michelle O’Neill said the protocol “is working and it is necessary to mitigate the worst impacts of Brexit.

“The Conservative government must refrain from making misleading statements which are unhelpful, and all efforts must be focused on a resolution,” she said.

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