Boris Johnson confidence vote: DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urges Prime Minister to deliver on Northern Ireland Protocol

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Boris Johnson won a vote of confidence within his party last night but sustained a huge blow to his authority and premiership.

Almost 150 Tory MPs voted against the prime minister in a performance that turned out to be worse than that for his predecessor Theresa May.

Mr Johnson gained 211 votes with 148 voting against him which means that just over 40% of Conservative MPs are opposed to the prime minister.

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That vote is lower in percentage terms for for Mrs May, who resigned even though she gained 63% in her leadership battle in 2018.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks after surviving an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader following a confidence vote in his leadershipPrime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks after surviving an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader following a confidence vote in his leadership
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks after surviving an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader following a confidence vote in his leadership

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urged Mr Johnson to stand by his commitments he gave over changing the Northern Ireland Protocol having just survived the vote of no confidence.

The DUP leader said Mr Johnson should use his “restored confidence” to deal with the NI Protocol once and for all.

“There is a great prize if this can be got right. The prize will be stable devolution in Northern Ireland,” he said.

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“The government has committed to legislate to deal with the protocol. Such commitments are good but ultimately the effect of this legislation is what really matters.”

In a message as much directed at Tory MPs as well as 10 Downing Street, Sir Jeffreysaid: “Last July, I set out our seven tests against which any legislation will be judged. Our tests are not grounded in a unionist wish list, but in promises that have already been made in one form or another, to the people of Northern Ireland.

“I do not believe that it is too much to ask that the government stands over those promises.

“A year ago, Brussels said, ‘no renegotiation’ and Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party were calling for the protocol’s ‘rigorous implementation’. The fact that all sides have at long last accepted that the protocol is flawed, is progress. It is unfortunate that I had to cease operating the political institutions before Dublin and Brussels fully recognised the lack of cross-community support.”

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He continued: “Over the last 50 years, if we have learnt anything in Northern Ireland it is that if our political arrangements are to last then they require support from right across the community.

“That is why former prime minister Tony Blair has called the protocol a ‘bad deal” and both he and Lord Trimble have spoken of the risk that it now presents to the future of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”

The DUP leader stressed that there is no serious or tangible threat to the EU single market in trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as it amounts to only 0.02% of the EU’s GDP.

He said that recent reports by economists from the University of Ulster and the University of Strathclyde have estimated that the cost of the protocol per annum is currently between £800 million and £1 billion.

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“The protocol has also created a democratic deficit in Northern Ireland. Laws can be devised, debated and imposed on Northern Ireland by the EU without direct or meaningful representation from our devolved legislature or national parliament. Regulation without representation would not be tolerated in any other part of the United Kingdom. It should not be tolerated in Northern Ireland. The DUP is seeking the restoration of democratic decision making.

“As a British citizen by birth, the protocol represents an unwarranted attack on the rights and identity of those in Northern Ireland who cherish and value membership of the United Kingdom. Article 6 of the Acts of Union requires that everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled to the same privileges,” he said.

Sir Jeffrey warned that if there are no changes to the protocol the DUP will not be returning to the Executive at Stormont.

“If the protocol is not resolved, then Northern Ireland will be without a devolved government. The restoration of power-sharing based upon a cross-community consensus rests with the government. It is not sustainable to spend £1m every day subsidising businesses to assist with protocol paperwork. This money would be better used to fund pressures in our hospitals and helping hard-pressed households with the cost of living.

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“It is unjustifiable to preach the need for consensus politics but then foist a protocol upon Northern Ireland which unionists reject.”

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