DUP wants government to speed up passage of Northern Ireland Protocol bill at Westminster

The DUP urged the government last night to speed up the legislation aimed at overriding key elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol if they want political progress in the Province.

By Henry McDonald
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 7:09 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 8:26 am

Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson cautioned that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill might take months before it gets through Parliament and royal assent.

A second reading of the bill is expected to take place at Westminster next week which Sir Jeffrey said was an important development.

“There is a long way to go with this legislation. It will take months to pass through the Commons and the Lords unless the government decides to lessen the timetable for the bill. We haven’t heard that so we will consider what happens with the legislative process.

DUP leader Sit Jeffrey Donaldson

“But at this stage we haven’t come to a view as to when institutions are going to be restored.

“We want that to happen but we need to be sure that this bill is going to be enacted.

“That is fundamentally important for us. A solution can only work once the legislation is in place,” Sir Jeffrey said.

Earlier the DUP leader urged the Irish government it needs to “get real” about the problems being caused by the protocol.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has been fiercely critical of the UK government’s plans to override parts of the international deal which was struck over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Mr Coveney warned the move could “destabilise” the situation in Northern Ireland and was undermining the work that led to the Brexit agreement with the EU.

But Sir Jeffrey responded: “Simon Coveney fails to recognise the extent of the problems that the protocol is causing for Northern Ireland.”

He told the BBC: “It is not just about trade, it is not just about the difficulties it is creating for business, it is not just about the impact this is having on the cost of living for every consumer in Northern Ireland, it is also about our political institutions.

“It is about stability. Not a single unionist MLA elected to the Assembly last month supports the protocol and without that cross-community consensus the political institutions cannot operate.

“I think the Irish government need to get real, they need to understand the extent of the problem here and stop deluding themselves that it is some kind of minor issue.

“As for negotiations, Simon Coveney talks about sitting around the table – the problem is we’ve had two years of negotiation and no progress.”

The protocol arrangements require regulatory checks and customs declarations on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Unionists in Northern Ireland are vociferously opposed to the international treaty, claiming it has undermined the Province’s place within the United Kingdom.

The DUP has blocked the formation of a new power-sharing government at Stormont following last month’s Assembly election in protest.

Sir Jeffrey said the UK government was entitled to take unilateral action over the arrangements.

He said: “What we need is a permanent solution here, and that is why I think it is important that the government is bringing forward this legislation, and I think what the government has proposed is balanced, it is fair.

“It enables us to see Northern Ireland’s place within the UK’s internal market restored in line with the commitment the government gave in New Decade, New Approach over two-and-a-half years ago now.”

But Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the UK government’s actions were a “straight up, slam dunk breach of an international agreement”.

She told RTE: “It undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and their actions will have huge economic consequences because the reality is, and everybody bar the DUP and bar Boris Johnson knows, that the protocol is working.

“It’s given us an economic advantage. Our economy is outperforming that of Britain and that’s I think what they want to hide in this.

“Boris Johnson’s action yesterday is just completely reckless, and serves to create more instability and serves to create more uncertainty for businesses for planning for the future.”

Ms O’Neill added: “From the very outset of the Brexit debate, we said that the Good Friday Agreement and Brexit were incompatible.”