Sir Jeffrey said,
On the NI Protocol
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.
Instead of asking why unionists are opposed to the Protocol, others should be posing the question to those who supported its rigorous implementation about why they are defending something which has been so damaging to Northern Ireland.
It has been through our decisive action and unionism standing together that we have made progress. Speaking with one voice completely undermines the argument that the Protocol is about protecting power sharing.
We welcome the publication of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. Its publication and first stage is recognition that Northern Ireland cannot go on with the NIP. For almost a year I have set out the case for decisive action and in a speech delivered on 1st July 2021 I urged both the Government and the European Union to conclude discussions in a manner that would deal with the Protocol and its lack of support in the Unionist community.
That did not happen, in large measure because the European Union was not prepared to alter its negotiating mandate, instead preferring to propose measures within the context of the original legal text. If the EU, and indeed the Republic of Ireland, truly believes in delivering for the next generation in Northern Ireland, then they will publicly acknowledge that they have got the balance wrong.
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.
The DUP, in line with its mandate, wants to fully participate in a newly established Northern Ireland Executive in order to implement the other elements of our 5-point plan.
I have appointed a number of DUP MLAs to engage with other parties and the Civil Service to engage in discussions on what a future programme for government may contain. As well as the on-going daily work being undertaken by our own Ministerial team we are also working with both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice on groups looking at the future of our health system and the need to tackle online harm.
But we cannot ignore the reality that unlike the last Executive, any incoming Executive cannot have its agenda blighted by the real world issues and problems that have flowed from the failed Northern Ireland Protocol.
If we get new arrangements that restore our position within the United Kingdom then Northern Ireland can move forward focused on devolved matters.
As unionists, we must be honest, it wasn’t nationalists or others who caused a number of pro-Union seats to be lost at the NI Assembly election. That was the direct result of a splintered unionism where three seats were lost in Strangford, North Antrim and East Antrim. Each of these constituencies had four unionist quotas yet each constituency only three elected unionists. That is not sustainable
Its no good talking about the theory that you cannot split the vote in a PR election when the real world evidence shows pro-Union representation weakened because of those splinters and division.
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.