Abortion NI: Sinn Fein assembly veto will not block progress of DUP’s Brexit Backstop alternative, says MP

Sammy Wilson says Sinn Fein's veto over a restored assembly will not stop an all-Ireland DUP backstop alternative.
Sammy Wilson says Sinn Fein's veto over a restored assembly will not stop an all-Ireland DUP backstop alternative.

Sinn Fein will not block the DUP’s proposed backstop alternative because it will be overseen by direct rule if republicans refuse to restore the assembly, it is claimed.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson says that any Backstop alternative that his party might agree would have to be administered by direct rule ministers if the assembly is not restored to oversee it.

Secretary of State Julian Smith has said he could bring direct rule in “at pace” to deal with NI aspects of Brexit, if the assembly is not restored soon.

Mr Wilson said an Irish Language Act is no longer Sinn Fein’s red line to restoring the Assembly, and offering one would not see the Executive quickly restored.

“If the assembly is not restored it would be up to ministers approved by England [to administer the backstop alternative] and any legislation being introduced would be debated in the House of Commons,” he told the News Letter. “If powers of assembly are not restored that would be the vehicle by which EU rules would be adopted.”

Such decisions could not be taken by civil servants, he said. Dublin and Sinn Fein may not like the fact that such a deal would take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union, he added.

But he said Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill had made clear in recent days that her party was not working towards restoring the Assembly at this time.

And as a result, he said, it is inevitable that decriminalised abortion and same sex marriage will come into Northern Ireland soon, as it is unlikely the Assembly will be restored by the deadline of October 21 set by MPs in a vote on the issues.

“Sinn Fein will not want any attempt by the assembly to interfere with this” he said.

Sinn Fein responded: “The restoration of the Assembly must be on the basis of equality and rights for all citizens including Irish language speakers, the LGBT community, women and victims.”

The party said that this has been Sinn Fein’s position since it collapsed the Executive and still is. It is “determined” to see the institutions restored but the DUP “walked away” from negotiations to concentrate on “the growing farce at Westminster” it added.