“We must lay solid foundations if we are to move forward. We need to clear away the debris of the Protocol years. We need to restore cross-community consensus. No unionist MLAs support the Protocol. Therefore, it must be replaced by arrangements that unionists can support. This is essential if the political institutions are to function and succeed.
Brussels must loosen the guide ropes for their negotiating team so a proper renegotiation can take place. The persistent refusal to change their negotiating mandate has been an impediment over the last two years to securing an outcome that unionists can support.
The Protocol continues to bedevil us, with businesses and consumers reporting further problems each week. A 25% tariff on steel, driving up transport costs by almost 30% and uncertainty over medicine and veterinary supplies. The checks, however, on the Irish Sea border are but a symptom of the problem. They are the product of Northern Ireland being subject to a different set of laws imposed upon us by a foreign entity without any say or vote by any locally elected representative.
In the future, as Great Britain moves in a different direction on aid or taxation, Northern Ireland will face further new barriers because we are tied to a different set of laws.
If we can secure a better way forward, then there is a great prize of stable devolved government but without decisive action in Dublin and Brussels then the Protocol will continue to erode the foundations of Stormont. Devolution requires the support of unionists as well as nationalists if it is to function and succeed.”