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Jeffrey Donaldson: Boris Johnson 'needs to recognise' constitutional harm from the Protocol

Donaldson says he was ‘strive for’ what he says is a solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

DUP LEADER JEFFREY Donaldson has said Northern Ireland’s relationship with the Republic of Ireland as well as Great Britain has been harmed by the Protocol but that he believes there is a solution. 

Speaking on Sky News this morning, Donaldson also said that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “needs to recognise” the Protocol is a concern to unionists for constitutional reasons as well as trading ones. 

The Protocol essentially means that EU regulatory and customs checks take place between Britain and the island of Ireland, instead of along the border in Ireland.

Unionists across the spectrum in Northern Ireland have voiced objections to the Protocol, saying it makes trade more difficult for businesses as well as weakening Northern Ireland’s status within the United Kingdom.  

Nationalists and the Irish government have argued that the Protocol is an instrument made necessary by Brexit, which was supported by the DUP but not a majority within Northern Ireland. 

Donaldson’s appearance on Sky News’ show Trevor Phillips on Sunday comes following a number of Brexit developments this week. 

The EU this week decided to extend the grace period allowing chilled meats to be sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, ending the so-called ‘sausage war’

Also this week, a court challenge brought by unionists that argued that the Protocol contradicts the Good Friday Agreement and EU law were all dismissed by a Belfast judge.

Though the judge did acknowledge that the Protocol contradicts the Act of Union, he ruled that the agreement by Parliament effectively overrode the 200-year-old law. 

Donaldson has described this finding as “politically significant”, saying that if it wasn’t resolved it will have “potential consequences for the future stability of political institutions”. 

Again returning to constitutional issues today, Donaldson insisted that the Protocol goes against the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

“At the heart of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement are three sets of relationships and there’s a very delicate balance within that Agreement as to how those relationships are managed,” Donaldson said.

And one of the key relationships is that between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The Agreement is very clear, the principle of consent protects the right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their Constitutional status. When you harm one of those relationships you harm both by extension and that’s exactly what we’ve seen happening because our relationship with Great Britain has been harmed by this Protocol, so to our relationship with the Republic of Ireland has been harmed.

He added: “It is imperative for all of us that we resolve these issues. I’m not accepting that this can’t be done, I’m not accepting that there is no solution, I believe there is and that’s what I’m going to strive for.”

Donaldson also said that the UK Prime Minister needed to “put right what was done wrong”. 

“We’ve heard him recognise that there are difficulties in terms of the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland but not just in trading terms, the Prime minister also needs to recognise that this impacts on our constitutional position.”

Donaldson was confirmed as the DUP’s new leader last month after Edwin Poots was forced out just weeks after being elected to the position. 

Upon his election, Donaldson said he would place opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol at the centre of his leadership. 

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Asked today whether the DUP needed to acklowdge that Brexit made a trade border inevitable and that the party should instead focus on Northern Ireland’s position in both the UK and EU markets, Donaldson said “there are opportunities going forward”. 

“We can’t get to those opportunities because of these unnecessary barriers,” he said, however.

“Much of our supply chain comes from Great Britain, whether you are a consumer buying goods in the supermarket or a business, relying on component parts for your manufacturing process, we need to fix that supply chain problem.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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