Allister fears DUP may be softening its Stormont boycott over Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

Jim Allister has voiced fears that the DUP is softening its position on boycotting Stormont.

The TUV leader was commenting after the DUP took part in talks with the head of the civil service alongside other would-be Executive parties about what the priorities of any new government would be.

The DUP meanwhile said today that whilst it does want to return to Stormont, “the blockage to real progress remains the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

This all comes as the Tories prepare to drive through a bill which is aimed at repealing aspects of the Protocol.

Jim Allister

However, Mr Allister suggested that unionists should not allow themselves to be beguiled by “the mere promise of a bill which, while it may ameliorate the Sea Border, does not remove it”.

Mr Allister said: “Monday’s meeting between the parties to discuss an executive ‘Programme for Government’ sends entirely the wrong message.

“Are the DUP serious about getting rid of the Protocol or are they preparing to enter government and enthrone Michelle O’Neill as First Minister?

“The only card which Unionism has to play in relation to restoring our place as a full member of the United Kingdom is Stormont. That strategy should not be undermined by equivocation.”

On Friday night Sir Jeffrey had told party activists that the Government’s bill would remove the “long shadow” cast by the Protocol.

Added to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s comments at the weekend, today’s meeting makes it “hard to escape the conclusion that the DUP is shifting” its position, Mr Allister added.

Meanwhile today, former DUP First Minister Paul Givan stated: “We have detailed proposals to fix our NHS, to help working families and to grow our economy.

“We will engage constructively in the working groups convened by the head of the Civil Service and ensure the DUP’s positive voice is heard in this process.

“However, whilst this process will be of value, the blockage to real progress remains the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol bill was set before the Commons on June 13. No date has yet been set for when its second reading will be.

In very basic terms, here is what the government says the bill will do: “It will disapply elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, and provide delegated powers to Ministers to make new law in connection with the Northern Ireland Protocol.”