The NSMC meeting scheduled for Friday is to take place on a virtual basis and will consider a number of areas including the response to Covid-19. There is no part of the meeting which will consider papers or take decisions relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol. DUP Ministers will be participating in recognition of that and in line with the Party's stated position. This is the same stance as we took with the British Irish Council meeting held recently in Fermanagh.
We want to work in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with our neighbours but we are mindful that the Northern Ireland Protocol has fundamentally altered Northern Ireland's relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. The interlocking and interdependent nature of relationships upon which progress here has been built means therefore that there cannot be a 'business as usual' approach on a North-South basis because of the NI Protocol.
The command paper published by HM Government is a welcome first step. It is important there is not just recognition of the problems caused by the Protocol, but that action is taken to remove barriers to trade within the United Kingdom. This means that the Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain must go.
Whilst this meeting is taking place within the current context, the next few weeks will determine the type of relationship we are able to have North-South. The Irish Government in particular need to understand that the more harm is done to our relationship with the rest of the UK, the more harm will be done to our relationship with them. In contrast, real progress on the protocol over the coming weeks would see an improved environment for North-South relationships. Therefore, everyone should want to see swift progress towards durable and lasting solutions.”