Northern Ireland news

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson welcome British government legislation but says no return to Stormont unless protocol is resolved

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

SIR Jeffrey Donaldson has said his party wants to be part of a new Stormont executive but not until problems with the protocol are resolved to the DUP's satisfaction.

The Lagan Valley MP said if there are new arrangements put in place that "restore our position within the United Kingdom" then the north can "move forward focused on devolved matters".

Addressing DUP members in Newry & Armagh last night, the DUP leader said he welcomed the British government legislation that seeks to unilaterally disapply key elements of the protocol.

He said the publication of the bill last Monday was recognition that the region "cannot go on with the Northern Ireland Protocol".

Sir Jeffrey said that for past year he had urged the British government and EU to "conclude discussions in a manner that would deal with the protocol and its lack of support in the unionist community".

"That did not happen, in large measure because the European Union was not prepared to alter its negotiating mandate, instead preferring to propose measures within the context of the original legal text," he said.

"If the EU, and indeed the Republic of Ireland, truly believes in delivering for the next generation in Northern Ireland, then they will publicly acknowledge that they have got the balance wrong."

He said the DUP position remained that if the "long shadow of the protocol" was removed it would lead to the re-establishment of the assembly and executive.

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie yesterday held a virtual meeting with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic. He said remarks by Mr Sefcovic in which the EU chief Brexit negotiator indicated that British goods coming into Northern Ireland will always be subject to checks were a "step too far".

"The EU has not been handed sovereignty over Northern Ireland and comments like this will only further strengthen the belief that the Protocol Bill will have to be enacted in order to secure Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market," the Upper Bann MLA said.

"Indeed, it will be absolutely necessary to protect the Belfast Agreement in the absence of a negotiated solution."

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