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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says protocol bill could restore Northern Ireland’s place in UK


DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire


DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Pic: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said new legislation being introduced on the Northern Ireland Protocol could be enough to “restore our place in the union”.

Speaking during a party gathering in the Newry and Armagh constituency, Sir Jeffrey said if the Westminster bill is passed it will “remove that long shadow of the Protocol from Northern Ireland”.

The legislation which is progressing through the House of Commons would give government ministers the power to scrap large parts of the protocol.

Sir Jeffrey did not yet commit to bringing his party back to the Executive table, and said doing so would depend on the bill becoming law alongside regulations.

The European Union has since warned that there will be retaliatory actions if the legislation is passed.

During his speech, Sir Jeffrey said: “The Protocol is putting economic barriers between Northern Ireland and our single largest market. It is pushing up the cost of living for people here and restricting choice on the shelves.

“The imposition of the Protocol has also breached the cross-community consensus that political progress has been built upon. Not one unionist MLA supported it yet it was foisted on NI.”

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He added: “During the election campaign, we indicated that we believed in devolved government and wanted to see the long shadow of the Protocol removed so that we could see the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the full functioning of the Northern Ireland Executive. That remains our position.

“We are closely examining the details of the Bill but it is our view that if this bill becomes law, alongside regulations, it will remove that long shadow of the Protocol from Northern Ireland. It will, in our view, restore our place in the Union and allow a restoration of the equilibrium in Northern Ireland.”

Sir Jeffrey said he had tasked a number of DUP MLAs to engage with other parties and the Civil Service to work on a possible programme for government.

“If we get new arrangements that restore our position within the United Kingdom then Northern Ireland can move forward focused on devolved matters,” he said.

Regarding the recent Assembly elections, in which Sinn Fein emerged as the largest Stormont party, Sir Jeffrey said he blamed the result on “splintered unionism”.

“I know that delivering a more cohesive unionism cannot be achieved by one party alone. It requires co-operation and effort from all of us who want to strengthen our place within the Union. What I can guarantee however is that the DUP will not be found wanting in that process and I will do everything in my power to facilitate that across unionism.”

Earlier, the Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he voiced his objections during a virtual meeting with the European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.

“I challenged Maros Sefcovic on his latest comments and told him that his intervention was very unhelpful,” he said.

“There can be a negotiated solution, but Maros Sefcovic`s comments make it more difficult. Saying that British goods coming into Northern Ireland will always be subject to checks, and that the EU is now responsible for public health in Northern Ireland is a step too far and one which the Ulster Unionist Party cannot accept.”

He said the EU had “not been handed sovereignty” and that unionists were now committed to the Protocol Bill which would secure Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

“Indeed, it will be absolutely necessary to protect the Belfast Agreement in the absence of a negotiated solution,” he said.

“Negotiations at this level are high stakes for many businesses and society here in Northern Ireland.”

.He added: “I respectfully remind Maros Sefcovic and his EU colleagues that if it wasn`t for the role of unionism through the Ulster Unionist Party, there would never have been a Belfast Agreement. The Agreement was based on consensus and for anyone to now play the majoritarianism card goes against every sinew of the Agreement itself. In the past we have been strongly critical of the United Kingdom Government`s role in how it handled Brexit and signing up to the Protocol in the first place, and we cannot ignore the EU`s responsibility in exacerbating an already toxic political environment.

“If the EU is serious about protecting the Belfast Agreement then it must focus on getting back into direct negotiations with the UK Government. The UK Command Paper from July 2021, which contained some of the Ulster Unionist Party`s proposals and the solutions proposed in the UK Government`s Protocol Bill, must form part of negotiations. They should not be dismissed.”

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