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MEPs to determine fate of UK trade rules in Brexit vote TODAY after angry backlash fears

The EU directive would also allow medicines to travel from the UK to Malta and Cyprus post-Brexit. Some MEPs wanted to make last-minute changes to the legislation, claiming the arrangement for Northern Ireland should be revisited in three years’ time.

The move could have infuriated unionists in Northern Ireland ahead of the May 5 elections.

Northern Ireland has not had a functioning powersharing executive since early February when DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson collapsed the administration by pulling out First Minister Paul Givan in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

There are significant doubts about whether a new executive will be formed following May’s election, given the DUP has insisted it will not return until changes are made to the contentious Irish Sea trading arrangements.

Powersharing rules mean a properly functioning administration can only be formed if the largest unionist and largest nationalist parties agree to enter the joint office of the first and deputy first ministers.

Brussels and the UK are still locking horns over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Protests against the protocol, which keeps Northern Ireland within the single market for goods and requires EU checks on British goods entering the country -are on the increase.

Last week, the window of the office of Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie was smashed following his announcement that he would no longer attend protests against the protocol.

He said: “Somebody can smash my window but I can fix it, but the first time that someone gets injured, the first time that someone gets killed, there is no going back on that.

“We are in a spiral of violence that I do not want to get us into.

“This is nothing to do with the election, this purely to do with protests around the protocol, which I do not think we should get involved in to raise ­tensions.”

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Dale Pankhurst, teaching ­assistant and PhD candidate at Queen’s ­University Belfast added that there is a “battle against time” to stop the situation from escalating.

He added: “Many Unionists view the ­protocol as an assault on the fabric of the ­Union and a violation of the ­principle of ­consent within the Belfast ­Agreement.”

This week, Brexiteer Lord Daniel Hannan said if the Northern Ireland Protocol is in force after the province’s May election there is no prospect of restoring the devolved government.

The Conservative Party peer explained how Northern Ireland’s executive has formed the basis of the peace settlement for the past 24 years.

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With the Assembly election due to be held on May 5, Lord Hannan said Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has one month to act.

Lord Hannan, writing in The Telegraph, said: “Britain has every right to adjust the Protocol in a way that respects the interests of both communities in Northern Ireland, by ensuring that the North/South border and the East/West border are fully open. Indeed, not just the right – the duty.

“If the Protocol is in force after the 5 May election, there is no prospect of restoring the devolved government that has been the basis of the peace settlement these past 24 years. That gives Liz Truss, whose responsibility all this has now become, a month to act.”



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