We want to see progress in days and weeks, not months: DUP

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’ plans to introduce legislation to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol is “a good start” for the Province, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson acknowledged last night.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 7:44 am

But the DUP leader stressed that “actions will speak louder than words” and his party will take a “graduated and cautious” approach to re-engaging with Stormont power-sharing.

Sir Jeffrey said it all depended on the progress of legislation to unilaterally change elements of the post-Brexit trade deal through Westminster.

He described the government’s announcement to table a bill that would enable it to act unilaterally to alter parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol as a “welcome if overdue step”.

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

But he stressed that his party, which has refused to return to a devolved government in Northern Ireland in protest at the Irish Sea trading arrangements, needed to see action rather than words from London.

A new Executive cannot be formed in Belfast following the recent election unless the DUP agrees to fill the post of deputy first minister.

The party has also declined to support the nomination of a new speaker so the Stormont parliament cannot meet.

Sir Jeffrey has made it clear that radical changes to the protocol must be delivered if the party is to join a power-sharing Executive.

Responding to yesterday’s announcement by Ms Truss, the DUP leader told the Commons: “From the outset in this House, the DUP warned about the consequences of this protocol and that’s why we opposed it from the beginning, because we recognised the political and economic instability it would cause and the harm it would create for the Union itself.

“The statement today is a welcome if overdue step that is a significant move towards addressing the problems created by the protocol and getting power-sharing based upon a cross-community consensus up and running again.

“Therefore, we hope to see progress on a bill in order to deal with these matters in days and weeks, not months, and as the legislation progresses we will take a graduated and cautious approach.

“We want to see the Irish Sea border removed and the government honouring its commitments in the New Decade, New Approach agreement (the 2020 deal that restored power-sharing) to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

“The statement today indicates this will be covered in the legislation to bring about new revised arrangements.

“Under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, power-sharing can only be stable if consensus exists on a cross-community basis. It does not exist at the moment on the part of the unionist community.

“We want to see the political institutions properly functioning as soon as possible, but to restore unionist confidence, decisive action is now needed in the form of legislation to repair the harm done by the protocol to the Acts of Union and put in place sensible arrangements that, in the words of the Queen’s Speech, ensure the continued success and integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom, including the internal economic bonds between all its parts.

“Finally, Mr Speaker, the words today are a good start but the foreign secretary will know that it is actions that speak louder than words and I welcome her commitment to such decisive action in this statement to the House.”

After the Commons debate Sir Jeffrey added: “It is progress that there is now a focus on the problem. This time last year, Brussels, Dublin, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party refused to even acknowledge the problem. They wanted the ‘rigorous implementation of the protocol’.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie described the foreign secretary’s statement as “a step forward towards fixing the protocol in a pragmatic way”.

Mr Beattie said: “We need cool heads, not knee-jerk reactions. Not the megaphone diplomacy that we saw from Simon Coveney over the weekend.”

But TUV leader Jim Allister said unionists stand firm in the face of what he claimed was a “lack of substance” in the proposals.

Mr Allister added that unionists should be wary of being conned into thinking the proposed changes “resolves the constitutional affront of the protocol”.