Brexit: 'No straight answers' as Sinn Fein meets PM over Northern Ireland impasse
Boris Johnson has been accused of failing to give straight answers after meeting party leaders in Belfast to try to resolve a political impasse over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Sinn Fein claimed the UK government had been coordinating with "obstructionist tactics" by its political opponents in the DUP who are unhappy with the protocol, which governs Northern Ireland's post-Brexit trading arrangements.
The DUP want to see these issues resolved before they enter into a power-sharing administration - and the party's leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said after his meeting with the PM that it needed to see decisive action.
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But at the same time, the Irish government has warned that if Britain decides to pull out unilaterally from the protocol, it could put at risk the wider free-trade deal between the UK and the EU.
Mr Johnson was booed and jeered by around 200 people who gathered at the gates of Hillsborough Castle as he arrived to hold talks with the parties to try to resolve the impasse.
Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein's leader, said her party's discussions with the PM had been "fairly tough".
She said: "I'm sorry to report that we've had no straight answers really from the British prime minister except a confirmation of what we already knew, which is that in fact this impasse is entirely coordinated between themselves and the DUP.
"If the DUP are acting shamefully in holding back government, well then the British government is behaving even more shamefully.
"The unfortunate thing is that the British government now is playing a game of brinkmanship with the European institutions, indulging a section of political unionism which believes that it can hold a veto and frustrate and hold society to ransom."
Deadlock in Northern Ireland - what you need to know
The protocol, an arrangement designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, means that some goods imported into Northern Ireland from Great Britain are subject to customs checks, effectively creating a new border in the Irish Sea.
Sinn Fein won the largest number of seats in the recent Northern Ireland assembly elections for the first time, meaning that its deputy president Michelle O'Neill is in line to be first minister.
But they would need to share power with the largest unionist party, the DUP.
What is power-sharing and why does Northern Ireland use it?
What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why does it matter?
Meanwhile, the UK is thought to be preparing draft legislation to allow the UK to override the protocol unilaterally.
Ms McDonald has described that course of action as "scandalous".
But Sir Jeffrey, the DUP leader, accused his nationalist opponents of "puerile nonsense". He said a draft bill would not be enough to satisfy it - and that the government would need to enact the legislation swiftly.
"The tabling of legislation is words," Sir Jeffrey said.
"What I need is decisive action. And that means I want to see the government enacting legislation that will bring the solution that we need.
"But let's see what the government are prepared to do. I haven't seen that yet. I want to see it.
"And I'm hoping that the government are going to do the right thing and help restore a consensus in Northern Ireland to address the very genuine and real problems that have been created by the Northern Ireland protocol."
Earlier, in an article in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Johnson said the UK will have a "necessity to act" if the EU is unwilling to reach a compromise in the deepening row over the protocol.
However, he stressed the government remained open to "genuine dialogue" with the European Commission.