Boris Johnson's protocol plan threatens jobs and creates instability, Michelle O'Neill says

Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill has said Boris Johnson's plan to amend the Northern Ireland Protocol is "reckless and disgraceful".

She also said the plan was a threat to jobs and created further instability.

The PM has defended controversial legislation which will allow ministers to override aspects of the agreement. He claimed it is "not a big deal" to "fix" the protocol, a deal he agreed with the EU, despite claims he is about to break international law by changing it.

The government moved the bill on Monday with it set to get a debate at a later date.

Speaking to the media at Stormont, Ms O'Neill said: "Today's action by Boris Johnson in Westminster is absolutely reckless, it is disgraceful, it does nothing to serve the interests of the people here.

"It flies in the face of an international agreement which he himself negotiated. It is in clear breach of international law."

She added: "The reality is that the protocol is working. Clearly, what we want here is certainty and stability.

"We are 40 days out from the election and yet we don't have an Executive formed because the DUP are blocking the formation of an Executive.

"I don't think that is acceptable to the public while they are dealing with a cost-of-living crisis."

Ms O'Neill also accused Mr Johnson of creating more instability and uncertainty in Northern Ireland.

"Boris Johnson's action is illegal, he is in clear breach of international law, regardless of the detail," she said.

"He himself signed up to an agreement, he signed on the dotted line and he's now legislating to breach that international agreement."

The first minister in waiting also claimed the protocol bill would would jeopardise jobs.

She said: "We want people to understand that we are speaking on behalf of the people here and the majority of parties are for the protocol.

"We opposed Brexit but we accept the protocol is mitigation.

"We have had a number of business organisations out very strongly to say the protocol is working.

"What Boris Johnson is doing today is to undermine all of that, bringing economic uncertainty. He is jeopardising jobs, local jobs.

"I just don't think it is acceptable and it is important that we call it out."

The DUP has welcomed the new bill. However, it has said it wants to see action before it can decide on re-entering government in Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he believed the government was acting within the provisions of the withdrawal agreement that allowed one side to take unilateral action if the protocol created societal, economic or political difficulty.

"We will obviously read that Bill with interest," he said.

"I believe that finally we are now seeing the kind of action that is required to begin the process of removing the barriers to trade within the United Kingdom to restoring Northern Ireland's place within the UK internal market."

Sir Jeffrey said the EU's negotiating mandate was "so limited" it could not agree to the changes that were required to the protocol.

"We believe it is right that the UK Government takes this action, the UK Government has a primary responsibility to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom and its internal market, whilst at the same time making reasonable proposals that offer protection to the European Union and their single market," he said.

"We will consider these proposals against our seven tests to determine if they meet what is required to achieve the objectives, which is of course to restore Northern Ireland's place within the UK internal market, to remove the barriers to trade within the UK, and to enable us then to restore the political institutions and protect the principle of consensus, cross-community consensus which is at the heart of the Belfast Agreement and of how the political institutions operate."

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