There was still a last hope, albeit minimal, of reaching an agreement between the Northern Irish parties for the formation of a government. But neither the visit to Belfast by the British minister responsible for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, on Wednesday 26 October, nor the pressure from the government in Dublin will have made it possible to put an end to the blockage of Northern Irish institutions, which which means new elections. The last in May were won by the Republicans of Sinn Féin – favorable to the reunification of the island of Ireland.
“Everyone is sticking to their positions”
At the heart of the problem, the “Northern Irish protocol”, born of Brexit. The Unionist Party (DUP), in favor of keeping Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, is calling for the repeal of this agreement negotiated between London and Brussels which establishes a special customs status for the province to avoid the return of a physical border with the neighboring Republic of Ireland. According to the DUP, it undermines the integrity of the UK by creating a de facto trade border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country.
“Everyone is sticking to their positions. However, the population has other concerns in mind than new elections”, observes Fabrice Mourlon, professor of British and Irish civilization at the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University. In the absence of a government, the budget has still not been voted on, angering the officials of the province.
London administers current affairs
Also, Claire Hanna, MP for the SDLP, the Social Democratic and Labor Party representing the catholics of Northern Ireland, proposes that “the Government of the Republic of Ireland be involved in the day-to-day governance of Northern Ireland alongside the British Parliament, and given a role in the management of school and hospital budgets. » Because, in the absence of a government in Belfast, it is London that administers current affairs. For Claire Hanna, ” Ie Conservative Party (British, Editor’s note) does not represent and does not have the interests of the people here at heart”. According to her, this situation only pushes more people towards the reunification of the two Irelands. As the DUP closes all options, “people will find others”.
The new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has assured European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that he prefers a “negotiated solution” on the protocol. “When he was in the Johnson government, Rishi Sunak had a rather moderate position, but as he integrated several Eurosceptic figures into his government, it is not clear which way he will go”, emphasizes Fabrice Mourlon.