The next prime minister will be very anti Northern Ireland Protocol, predict DUP

DUP MP Sammy Wilson says that so many Tory MPs now back his party’s position on the NI Protocol that it is inevitable any new Prime Minister would strongly favour overhauling the mechanism. 

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said support for the bill is growing significantly among Tory MPs
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said support for the bill is growing significantly among Tory MPs

Boris Johnson has faced intense pressure to resign from within his own party this week after the latest scandal to embroil his leadership - this time revelations about his appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip.

However despite a showdown with his own cabinet, he refused to go.

“I would imagine anyone who takes over from him is going to have to make commitments to that growing [Brexit] wing of the party that the Protocol is bad for the union, bad for the United Kingdom as a whole and bad for the stability of Northern Ireland,” Mr Wilson told the News Letter.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons yesterday, amid a backdrop of political turmoil over his leadership. Photo: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

“The government currently has an NI Protocol bill making its way through Parliament to overhaul the mechanism in line with overwhelming unionist concerns, the successive passage of which is likely to lead to the restoration of Stormont powersharing.

And Mr Wilson said support for the bill is growing significantly among Tory MPs.

“During the second reading debate for the government’s Protocol bill, the number of Tory MPs who had never spoken on this before were coming out and saying this is necessary because of the influence the protocol has on the UK, the union and the Good Friday Agreement.

“So whoever wants to lead the party is going to have to make a commitment to those people. Any new leader will at least have to endorse the Protocol bill.”

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the Health Minister had questions to answer about the effectiveness of the Department of Health

In many conversations he had this week with the Brexit wing of the party, he said, the MPs were “making it clear that if it got to a leadership election they would require that as a commitment before they would support any individual”.

He thinks it is unlikely a remainer could secure the leadership in light of the views of the majority of Tory MPs at present.

And he does not believe Johnson will survive.

“How does he even form a cabinet? Even at Prime Minister’s question time today it was quite clear. Normally he could have relied on some of the backbenchers to rise to the occasion and cheer him on. But there was just total silence.”

However he did not rule out the possibility that the PM could call a general election. Although Johnson said openly yesterday he did not think there should be an election for another two years at least, “he didn’t say there wouldn’t be one”.

Mr Wilson said Mr Johnson may argue that the current mandate of Tory MPs is his and that whoever takes over as leader can’t claim it as theirs.

Many commentators and even his enemies believe many of the seats that they won, especially in the north of England - were due to his personality, he added.

DUP MP Ian Paisley agreed that the crisis is creating “incredibly important moments for Northern Ireland”.

He added: “No matter what happens there will be significant consequences for Northern Ireland because the protocol is still not fixed and the power sharing executive is still broken; our future depends on a stable national government to resolve the big questions that affect the people of Northern Ireland.”

He does not take it for granted that any successor would necessarily give the same attention or approach to the matters as Boris Johnson has done.

“Nobody knows. We do not know who would emerge even as contenders for the leadership. All sorts and shades of different types of people could emerge.

“And Northern Ireland issues then, of course, become negotiable as policy within the actual Conservative Party.

Unlike the DUP’s neutral position on the leadership, however, UUP leader Doug Beattie called for the PM to resign.

“The United Kingdom needs strong, stable Government and Northern Ireland must not be the collateral damage due to what is happening in the Johnson administration,” he said.

“From Brexit to the Protocol, from Partygate to Pincher, it is clear that the Prime Minister`s credibility is so damaged, his position is no longer credible. For the good of the country, he needs to stand down.

“Whoever replaces Boris Johnson needs to deal with the issues facing the country including the serious problems caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol and the cost of living crisis.”

The Alliance Party agreed. It tweeted: “Boris Johnson was never fit to be Prime Minister. He has betrayed and lied to the people of the UK time and time again. This must be the final straw. Johnson must go.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP cited what he said were Johnson’s failures on coronavirus, a series of scandals, Brexit, the protocol and Troubles legacy plans.

“The moment has long since passed for Johnson to do the right thing and depart with any dignity, but he must go as soon as possible so we can begin to undo the damage he’s caused,” he said.

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd said that whoever replaced Johnson would have to change the UK’s policies on austerity, the economy and international agreements in order to stabilise powersharing.