The European Union and the British Government have been at loggerheads over negotiations about the Northern Ireland Protocol. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Boris Johnson have started drawing up legislation to amend and remove parts of the Protocol.
On Friday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met with Simon Coveney and tweeted: “I was clear that our priority is upholding the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and restoring political stability in Northern Ireland.
“We remain open to a negotiated solution, but we cannot allow any more drift.”
On Tuesday, Ms O’Neill spoke to Tory MPs in an effort to convince the British Government to stop “pandering to the DUP” who have refused to join in the power-sharing administration until changes are made to the Protocol.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: “I’m not going to say one thing to the electorate and the day after the election, do a volte-face.
“I gave my word. I sought a mandate on the basis of sorting out the Protocol.”
The DUP is using power sharing negotiations to leverage its concerns over the future of the Protocol and Ms O’Neill said: “It’s time for us all, as political leaders, to have the courage to step forward with unity of purpose and determination to deliver a stable partner and coalition.”
The Vice President warned MPs that they must stop giving the DUP an outsized influence as they no longer reflect the wider view in Northern Ireland.
She said: “I think it’s outrageous that at this point, three weeks after the election, the DUP have still not formed an executive with the rest of the parties, because remember, they are the outlier.”
Sinn Fein needs the support of at least 40 Conservative MPs to block the new legislation and tried on Tuesday to convince conservatives against unilateral action.
Speaking on BBC’s Newsnight she said: “I think we’ve had a very fruitful 24 hours here in London where we’ve engaged not just those of the Tory Party, but the Labour Party.
“We wanted to give them our analysis, our perspective of actually how we see things unfolding.
“We wanted to make a very strong message that we want the government to work, we need to have the election outcome respected and we need to have an Assembly and Executive set up immediately.”
She added: “I think it was more important that we actually put the case that actually the response or the actions of the Tory party, are actually reckless and they’re actually working against the best interests of the people at home.
“We do not want unilateral action and what we need to see is the Protocol. The Protocol is working. All the economic data actually points to the fact that our economy is outperforming that of here in Britain.”
Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald said before meeting with Tory MPs: “We’ve made the case very clearly that Boris Johnson needs to stop playing games, stop using Ireland as either a bargaining chip in this confrontation with the European system, or indeed as a distraction in his domestic affairs.”
Ms O’Neill stated: “What we need to do to find our way is to smooth the implementation of the Protocol because it is here to stay.
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“I think it’s dishonest of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, for example, to speak of the fact that it’s not working, that it’s hindering businesses. That is not the reality on the ground.
“What’s unacceptable actually, is that Boris Johnson and this Government are intending to take unilateral action that flies in the face of an international agreement which they themselves signed up to.”
“We voted in a cross-community basis to reject Brexit, but it’s been foisted upon us.”
Ms O’Neill accused the Government of “fuelling political instability” and instead is aiming to urge the EU and the Government to “sit down together and in earnest find an agreed way forward”.
She concluded: “We said from day one that Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement were not compatible and it’s quite impossible to square the circle.”