DUP leader hopes EU states not considering a trade war

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he hopes EU member states are not considering a trade war.

Saturday, 16th October 2021, 8:00 am
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

He was speaking after reports suggested such a scenario could follow if the UK acts unilaterally on the Northern Ireland protocol by triggering a mechanism known as ‘Article 16’ to suspend large parts of the operation of the trading arrangements.

“I don’t know the extent to which this is posturing on the part of some of the EU member states in advance of the negotiations, but bear in mind that the EU has a massive trading surplus with the UK,” the DUP boss said during an interview with Times Radio.

“They sell far more goods into our country than we sell to them. We are a market of 60 million, the second largest market in Europe.

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“Are those countries, especially the smaller member states, seriously saying they don’t want to sell us goods any more, that they want a trade war? I would hope that isn’t the case.”

He continued: “I can’t see how it’s in their interest to do that, and what we need now is to focus on the negotiations.”

The Lagan Valley MP added: “We’re not contemplating failure, we want to see success. But we are clear that, if the EU does not step up and be reasonable in reaching an accommodation, then we do expect that the UK Government will take steps to protect the integrity of its own market.”

Sir Jeffrey was also pressed on the claim that Boris Johnson signed up to an agreement he knew he was going to break.

That had been the claim made by the PM’s former advisor Dominic Cummings earlier this week, which was followed by similar comments from Sir Jeffrey’s party colleague Ian Paisley during an appearance on the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

“I have no knowledge of that,” the DUP leader told Times Radio. “That has certainly never been said to me and I was very much involved at that time. We were in a confidence and supply arrangement with the Government.

“At no stage did any Government minister, including the Prime Minister, say to me what you have described.”

Sir Jeffrey also indicated that the party’s threat to collapse powersharing at Stormont if changes to the protocol are not secured still stands.

“Our position is clear,” he said. “I hope we can get a solution, but we are not going to continue implementing something that harms Northern Ireland.”