Northern Ireland

Protocol and Irish Sea border are key issues in DUP campaign

Gavin Robinson’s party believes there is ‘more work to do’ in its bid to remove the Irish Sea border

DUP Leader Gavin Robinson during the party manifesto launch at Harland & Wolff Welders Football Club Stadium in East Belfast.
DUP leader Gavin Robinson. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

The DUP has pledged to send a strong message to the next British government about “fully restoring Northern Ireland place within the United Kingdom”.

The party’s manifesto, launched in Belfast on Monday, says it wants the application of EU law in the north removed, alongside the “Irish Sea border it creates”.

The DUP is standing in all but two of the north’s 18 constituencies and defending eight seats. It is supporting independent unionist candidate Alex Easton in North Down and the Ulster Unionists’ Diana Armstrong in Fermanagh-South Tyrone.

The 48-page ‘Speaking Up For Northern Ireland’ manifesto also includes commitments to push for a new regional fiscal framework, drive down health service waiting lists and abolish the TV licence fee.

The document begins with the DUP’s ‘record on delivering’, including sections on its promotion of the union, helping secure various City Deals, and the rollout of high-speed broadband, paid for with funds secured under the 2017 confidence and supply deal with the Tories

Almost five months after the party agreed to restore the Stormont institutions on the basis of concessions around the protocol it claimed to have secured from the British government, the DUP argues “there is still more to do”.

DUP Leader Gavin Robinson during the party manifesto launch at Harland & Wolff Welders Football Club Stadium in East Belfast.
DUP peers William McCrea and Nigel Dodds at the DUP's manifesto launch. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

The manifesto says that “on balance” the party judged it was right to return to Stormont in the interests of “seeing local decisions being made for the benefit of all our citizens”.

“We returned on the basis of the roadmap set out in the government’s command paper,” it says.

“That paper did not secure all of our negotiating objectives and did not remedy a number of the long-term problems born out of the protocol. It did however contain some important gains which were worthy of banking.”

The elements of the deal the party is keen to be associated with include the establishment of the East-West Council and Intertrade UK, an independent monitoring panel to provide oversight of the new arrangements, and the continued supply of veterinary medicines.

“Our clear message going forward is that we are campaigning to send a strong message to a new government, whether Labour or Conservative, that building on the progress to date, we will continue to fight to fully restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom, including removing the application of EU law in our country and the internal Irish Sea border it creates,” the manifesto states.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson, who succeeded Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in April when the latter was charged with historic sexual offences, told the manifesto launch that Labour under Sir Keir Starmer was standing on a “pro-union ticket”.

“The messages that you’ve heard from Hilary Benn as shadow secretary of state and Keir Starmer himself, who knows Northern Ireland, is not to upset the delicate balance that we have,” he said.

“I don’t have any strong concerns on that, but the DUP will love many, trust few, and always paddle our own canoe.”

Other policy proposals tabled include a smaller House of Lords with the majority of members elected and an end to Westminster expenses and allowances for abstentionist Sinn Féin.

Mr Robinson said he wanted the DUP to send its strongest team to Westminster.

“As we enter the closing stages of this election we are campaigning for every vote and seeking a mandate to send the strongest team to Westminster,” he said.