Jeffrey Donaldson hails second reading of Northern Ireland Protocol bill and wants ‘rapid progress’

The progression of a bill to unilaterally scrap parts of Northern Ireland’s Brexit deal has been welcomed by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 24th June 2022, 6:48 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 7:43 am

Commons Leader Mark Spencer announced the controversial legislation has been scheduled to receive its second reading on Monday.

This will see the House of Commons debate the main principles of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and decide whether it can proceed for further consideration.

Sir Jeffrey hailed the move as “welcome and sensible”.

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

“It is important that this bill now progresses rapidly through its legislative stages in the Commons before the summer recess,” he said.

While others have opposed the bill, Sir Jeffrey has argued that, if enacted, it can help to restore the political equilibrium in Northern Ireland by replacing the protocol with arrangements that restore the Province’s place within the UK.

The government has argued the measures to remove checks on goods and animal and plant products travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland are necessary to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement and peace and stability.

The imposition of checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in order to keep an open border with Ireland has angered unionists.

But capitals across the EU bloc reacted with outrage to the plans to override parts of the protocol, which governs trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The DUP has long opposed the protocol and is refusing to enter the power-sharing institutions at Stormont until issues with the post-Brexit settlement for the Province are addressed.

Sir Jeffrey has encouraged MPs to back the Protocol Bill, saying talks between the UK and the EU have “failed to deliver solutions to the fundamental everyday problems brought about by the protocol”.

“It is important that this bill now progresses rapidly through its legislative stages in the Commons before the summer recess and we will want to see that not only does the bill receive substantial support at Westminster, but that it is not subject to either wrecking amendments or indeed other amendments that would dilute the framework and impact of the bill,” he said.

“We want to see the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive restored and that can be achieved when there is a sustainable basis for doing so.

“We will continue to be condition and not calendar led as we look forward to this bill now making rapid progress.”

Next week’s business in the Commons will also include Labour-led Opposition Day Debates on June 28 and the first day of the committee stage of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill on June 29.

The second day to consider the remaining stages of this Bill are expected on July 4, according to Mr Spencer.

Backbench business debates on Iran’s nuclear programme and 50 years of Pride in the UK will take place on June 30.

Meanwhile, Labour’s David Lammy has said if his party was in government it would have more success in finding a negotiated solution to arguments over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Lammy attacked the government’s bill as “a charter for lawlessness that serves the interests of those who want to weaken the rule of law”.

In a speech to the UK in a Changing Europe think tank yesterday, he said: “I have been told frankly by EU partners that if there was a partner they could trust, they could show flexibility.”

He acknowledged that negotiations would be challenging, but said Labour’s achievement in “brokering the Good Friday Agreement” made it “confident that with trust and goodwill, we will be able to achieve it”.

He also claimed the UK still lacks a clear foreign policy six years on from voting to leave the EU.

The shadow foreign secretary told the think tank: “I’m afraid the Conservatives cannot hide from the fact that their choices have left us more damaged almost than any comparable economy.”

He added that instead of working closely with the EU, the Conservatives were “stuck in a fever dream of 2016, picking fights with our closest allies instead of moving on and negotiating solutions”.

Mr Lammy added: “The government’s position is that the situation in Ukraine is so serious that their law-breaking prime minister must remain in office, but apparently not serious enough to stop us picking a diplomatic fight with our closest allies.”