DUP pledge ‘graduated and cautious’ response to Government protocol move

The party has refused to re-enter a power-sharing administration in Belfast without major changes to the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson at Erskine House, Belfast, after his meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, following the historic result at the weekend with Sinn Fein overtaking the DUP to become the first nationalist or republican party to emerge top at Stormont. Picture date: Monday May 9, 2022.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson at Erskine House, Belfast, after his meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, following the historic result at the weekend with Sinn Fein overtaking the DUP to become the first nationalist or republican party to emerge top at Stormont. Picture date: Monday May 9, 2022.

The DUP will take a “graduated and cautious” approach to re-engaging with Stormont power-sharing – depending on the progress of legislation to override parts of the Brexit protocol, party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said.

Sir Jeffrey described the Government’s announcement to table a Bill that would enable it to act unilaterally to change parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol as a “welcome if overdue step”.

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.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (centre), leaves Hillsborough Castle after holding talks with the Prime Minister on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA)

The party has also declined to support the nomination of a new Assembly speaker, meaning the legislature at Parliament Buildings cannot meet.

Sir Jeffrey has made it clear that radical changes to the protocol must be delivered if the party is to re-engage with power-sharing.

Responding to Tuesday’s announcement by Foreign Secretary Liz 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.”

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