Speaking afterwards Sir Jeffrey said,
“I gave an honest appraisal of serious challenges lying ahead for Northern Ireland and north-south relations.
The decision by President Higgins to boycott the cross community centenary service was ill-judged and has set back the relationship. When contrasted with Her Majesty the Queen’s visit to the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgin’s approach to the centenary has been driven more by civil war politics than by reconciliation in 2021. He failed to either consider or else ignored the offence to unionists.
I recognise and welcome that both Irish government parties will send representatives to the cross-community service, but the damage has been done and will take time to heal.
On the Protocol, I reminded the Taoiseach that the Irish Sea border must go. Northern Ireland must be free to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Whilst six months ago the EU was denying there was a problem and refusing to even consider change, the acceptance that change is now necessary is welcome and a vindication of our approach.
I recognise that there has been a change in language from Brussels and London but it is action we require. Time is short. This Protocol is undermining the Union and is costing our economy £850m per year. This is not a time for tweaks or tinkering. Legislative change is required.
With every elected unionist calling for change, if London and Brussels fail to take action, I reminded the Taoiseach that I will not hesitate in taking the matter to the electorate and asking the people to register their opposition to the Protocol at the ballot box.”