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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson ‘absolutely convinced’ DUP will return to Stormont if Northern Ireland Protocol Bill enacted


A sign protesting against the NI Protocol in Larne town centre

A sign protesting against the NI Protocol in Larne town centre

A sign protesting against the NI Protocol in Larne town centre

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said his party will return to the institutions at Stormont and confirmed he will serve as deputy First Minister if the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill passes through Westminster.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday as MPs voted on various amendments to the Bill, the DUP leader said it would lead to the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

"I'm absolutely convinced of that and my party has stated clearly that if this Bill becomes law, we believe that provides the basis for restoring the political institutions in Northern Ireland, including the Executive, and I've already committed to leave this place and to return to Stormont as the deputy First Minister as part of that executive,” he said.

"Therefore I have a personal commitment to the restoration of the political institutions, as does my party."

During the session, an SDLP amendment which had sought to protect the part of the Northern Ireland Protocol linked to democratic consent was voted down by MPs 308 to 230.

Sir Jeffrey’s party colleague Sammy Wilson told MPs the "problems have been apparent" with the post-Brexit trading arrangements for two years.

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"Companies in Northern Ireland that don't have stores in the Irish Republic are still subject to the same checks.

"Only last week, a wholewheat company, headlines in the local paper, Belfast Telegraph, indicated that they had to send back a lorry load of goods because on that lorry were vegetarian pizzas.

"I would have thought that vegetarian pizzas would not have been subjected to SPS checks, but I'd be wrong because those vegetarian pizzas, to make the base you had to have milk, and because of the milk content in the base of the vegetarian pizza there had to be a certificate.

"And that certificate had to be signed off by a vet that the milk was OK. And when the vet who was Spanish sent it off, instead of putting an I as we would write an I, he wrote the Is as Spanish would write an I, which apparently is upside down and looks like a bit of a V.

"And so when the product came to the Port of Larne, the EU inspector looked at it and said, not that there was anything suspect about the pizzas, but there was something suspect with the form. The I was the wrong shape and that entailed the pizzas and the load that was in being sent back to where it came from."

The Bill would give ministers in Westminster the power to scrap parts of the post-Brexit deal between the UK and the EU.

The protocol is part of the 2019 Brexit deal and keeps Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods, preventing a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

But it means checks on some items which come into Northern Ireland from other parts of the UK, creating a trade border in the Irish Sea.

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