DUP Leader briefs members of the Foreign Press Association

DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has met with members of the Foreign Press Association in London and briefed them on why the Northern Ireland Protocol must be replaced by arrangements that can command the support of unionists and nationalists.

Sir Jeffrey said,

Consensus. We operate power-sharing in Northern Ireland, not majority rule. Not one unionist MLA supports the Protocol. That represents 42% of the votes cast at the recent Assembly election. The NI Protocol was doomed from its inception as it was foisted upon Northern Ireland without the support of unionists. No agreement in the history of Northern Ireland has succeeded unless it could secure cross community support.

London, Dublin and Brussels must recognise that it was a gross error in judgement to attempt to steamroller over the concerns of unionists. That is not how peace is made and it is not how a peace process is cemented.

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.

Solution. 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.

A negotiated outcome was our preference but for two and a half years Brussels has refused to renegotiate. Therein lies the problem.

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, allow a restoration of the equilibrium in Northern Ireland.

International law. Those who criticise the NI Protocol Bill focus on international law yet in fawning over the NI Protocol, they close their eyes to the Belfast Agreement’s commitment to the consent principle. The Belfast Agreement and its successors are international agreements, yet the NI Protocol has now removed the spine of those agreements which was cross community consent.

Unilateral action. Maros Sefcovic said “there can be no renegotiation” on 13 June and 22 May 2022. We have arrived at this point due to EU intransigence. We must also remember that if the UK had not taken unilateral action on putting grace periods in place, our supermarket fridge shelves would be empty of chilled meat.

The retaliatory threat from the EU to prevent Northern Ireland businesses having access to their single market suggests they are preparing to create a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. How is this consistent with their claim that they want to protect the Good Friday Agreement?

A great prize. By resolving the Protocol problem, there will be a solid foundation for power-sharing to be restored and Northern Ireland being able to remove the dark shadow of the Protocol from our politics.

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