Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he was ready to tear up the post-Brexit Northern Ireland trade arrangement, calling the current deal with the EU “unsustainable in its current form” despite calls from his Irish counterpart not to take unilateral steps action.

Nationalist Sinn Fein emerged as the largest party in a historic shift in last week’s election, with Irish Sea customs inspecting shipments between the UK and Northern Ireland, undermining the formation of a power-sharing borough.

Sinn Fein, long linked to the paramilitary IRA and committed to Irish unity, has the power to appoint the first minister.

But the Democratic Unionist Party said the trade arrangement, known as the Northern Ireland deal, was undermining the region’s standing in the UK and had to be scrapped, and it was boycotting Stormont’s new executives until London took action.

Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill and DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson both spoke to Johnson on Tuesday morning, as did Ireland’s consul Michael Martin. In Northern Ireland without a fully functioning decentralized executive, a tug-of-war over the formation of an executive has raised the prospect of months of political stalemate.

Johnson told Martin that the situation with the Northern Ireland deal was “very serious right now” and was undermining the 1998 Good Friday deal that ended the troubles – a three-decade conflict between Republicans fighting to drive Britons out of Northern Ireland, and to stay And the conflict between the fighting loyalists. in England.

The Downing Street prime minister told Martin that Britain’s “repeated efforts” had failed to get the necessary action from Brussels and that “if a solution cannot be found, the British government will act to protect peace and political stability in Northern Ireland”.

London is already drafting legislation allowing Britain to drop the protocol – a move that could threaten a trade war with Brussels.

Frustrated by London’s stance, Dublin believes Brussels has made real concessions to make the deal more viable, with Martin urging Johnson to “avoid any unilateral action”.

European Commission Vice President Maros Šefčovič rejected Johnson’s argument that the agreement needs to be revised or scrapped. “As the cornerstone of the agreement, the agreement [Brexit] The withdrawal agreement is an international agreement. Its renegotiation is not an option. The EU is unanimous in this position,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

O’Neill, the first minister of the region, wrote on twitter After her phone call with Johnson, “the public here cannot be a pawn in the UK government’s game with the EU”.

With a paralyzed Stormont unable to pass a budget and provide people with cost-of-living relief, O’Neill said the DUP was “punishing the public” by refusing to form executives.

Under the peace deal, both traditionally nationalist and unionist communities must be represented in the power-sharing executive branch, but Donaldson demanded an agreement on the deal as the price of his party’s participation.

“We cannot nominate executives until decisive action is taken on the agreement,” he said in a statement. tweet after talking to Johnson.

Although the trade union party, which opposed the protocol, won more votes than the nationalist parties in last Thursday’s election, Stormont parliamentary majority It is believed that the current arrangements can work.

Parliament is expected to meet on Friday to elect a new speaker, but it is unlikely that a new executive will be formed until the dispute over the agreement is resolved.

That means caretaker ministers will remain in office, but with limited powers, for up to 24 weeks, after which new elections may be held.

The British government also tweaked planned legislation on Tuesday that has angered politicians and civil society on both sides of the Irish border, providing immunity from prosecution for all trouble-era atrocities.

Under the revised plan, only those working with the new Independent Commission on Settlement and Information Restoration are eligible for amnesty. Victims’ advocates say it has let them down.

“They’re trying to fudge a bit and say they’re listening, but there’s nothing to tell me it’s beyond a de facto amnesty,” said Grainne Teggart, campaign manager for human rights group Amnesty International UK.

The government has also reaffirmed its commitment to long-promised cultural legislation to give Irish and Ulster Scots official status in Northern Ireland.

Additional reporting by Andy Bounds in Brussels

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