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Statement from the Democratic Unionist Party

The DUP voted against the Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament. We were opposed to any concept that Northern Ireland’s economic place in the UK internal market should be compromised by the Protocol.

On three occasions we helped stop Theresa May’s version of the Withdrawal Agreement and we spoke against, argued against and voted against the current Prime Minister’s Brexit.

We are still arguing that in these negotiations the Withdrawal Agreement must be scrapped or changed to take account of the need to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the internal market of the United Kingdom.

Whilst some have belatedly realised the dangers of trade barriers between NI and GB and vice versa, the DUP has been consistent in our opposition.

On 20 May the Government published a policy paper on its approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol. This included four principles:

· Unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the rest of the UK (and particularly that trade should take place as it does now)

· No tariffs on internal UK trade

· No new customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland

· Northern Ireland benefits from UK trade deals

These objectives must be unmovable foundational pillars, but we are extremely concerned with the absence of regular updates to the Northern Ireland parties and businesses to date.

The uncertainty around the future trading relationship is a matter the Government must urgently address. Great Britain is our main market. It accounts for 52.7% of Northern Ireland external sales and 65% of Northern Ireland purchases are from Great Britain.

We note the speculation that the Government will pursue fall-back measures under the Internal Market Bill to protect Northern Ireland’s interests should a deal not be agreed that mitigates the threat of the NI Protocol.

We will want to see the finer details and clauses relating to this and will study them carefully.

We welcome them in broad terms in so far as they go, but the Government must continue to work to remove any disadvantages to Northern Ireland brought about by its signing up to the Protocol.