Lord Dodds: It’s bizarre for anyone to depict DUP as endorsing in 2019 the undemocratic Northern Ireland Protocol that was eventually foisted upon business

Last September the leaders of the four main unionist political parties in our Province joined forces to sign a declaration rejecting the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Does Lord Empey agree with his Ulster Unionist colleague Ian Marshall, above, who said the protocol is here to stay?  Or endorse the view of his party leader Doug Beattie that these issues can be ironed out by negotiations without implications for the future of devolution?
Does Lord Empey agree with his Ulster Unionist colleague Ian Marshall, above, who said the protocol is here to stay? Or endorse the view of his party leader Doug Beattie that these issues can be ironed out by negotiations without implications for the future of devolution?

In doing so, they pledged to stand together to seek the full restoration of Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

Sadly, this shared objective has been undermined by a small number of voices who are more interested in scoring petty political points within the unionist family (Lord Empey: ‘The DUP has not faced up to its central role in creating the Northern Ireland Protocol,’ January 5, see link below).

Rather than taking the fight to those responsible for these perverse arrangements in Brussels, Dublin and London, they would rather peddle mistruths and apportion blame within unionism for an outcome that no unionist elected representative has ever voted for.

Lord Dodds is a former deputy leader of the DUP and North Belfast MP

This is an act of self-harm. It does nothing to further the economic interests of Northern Ireland or the cause of our Union.

It is a matter of public record that the votes of DUP MPs were decisive in stopping Theresa May’s backstop on three different occasions.

That deal would most certainly have created a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

Fast forward a few months and Boris Johnson’s October 2019 proposals actually included a veto for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Any divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would have required the prior consent of Stormont on a cross-community basis before coming into force.

This was consistent with our red line that any outcome must respect the role of the devolved institutions and Northern Ireland would have stayed under UK customs laws.

It is bizarre that anyone should depict the DUP’s position during this period as an endorsement of the undemocratic protocol eventually foisted upon businesses and communities in Northern Ireland.

A veto would have put the matter in our own hands, not the hands of London, Dublin or Brussels.

The reality is that the prime minister failed utterly to deliver on these sensible commitments to unionism and to democracy in Northern Ireland.

What was proposed and what he negotiated were miles apart.

Accordingly, DUP MPs voted to reject the government’s final deal. This course of action was never in doubt. We will not allow it to become prey to revisionism.

Unionism deserves better than saboteurs within its own ranks — those concerned only with electioneering and one-upmanship.

It also deserves political leaders who are committed to decisively dealing with the oppressive and damaging protocol.

Does Lord Empey agree with his party colleague Ian Marshall who said the protocol is here to stay?

Does he endorse the view of his party leader Doug Beattie that these issues can be ironed out by repeated negotiations without any implications for the future of devolution?

Ultimately, this is not the time for half-measures. There can be no holds barred.

Every available option should be on the table. Above all, unionists of all shades must stand together, set narrow differences aside and resist a blame culture, as we pursue a permanent and acceptable solution in the interests of our people, Province and nation.

Lord Dodds is a former deputy leader of the DUP and North Belfast MP

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