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The Briefing

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the NI Protocol

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the NI Protocol Banner

by Aiken PR

09/09/2021

DUP leader says that the choice was clear: The NI protocol or the NI Institutions.

Sir Jeffrey said it would not be ‘business as usual’ while links with Great Britain were damaged. Setting the context for a potential election in 2021 he talked about the need to ‘refresh our mandate’.

The steps his party would take include include:

– boycotting most north–south ministerial meetings except for co–operation on health matters.

– collapsing power–sharing arrangements at Stormont ‘within weeks’.

– blocking additional checks at the ports, ‘regardless of demands from the UK government and the EU’.

– DUP ministers’ resignation from their post rather than implement further border checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of GB.

– frustrating and preventing alignment between the NI Assembly legislation and laws passed by the EU.

Directly to journalists after the speech he said that the choice was clear. The NI protocol or the NI Institutions.

Analysis

Expertly timed as the European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic began a two day visit to Northern Ireland, this was much more in line with the type of platform that the DUP would want for their leader, as he laid the foundations that would help re–establish their strength of voice on an issue that runs deep in unionism… with the heat of an election starting to intensify.

In a not so veiled reference to the UUP’s proposed solution to the Protocol earlier this week, he refuted any ambiguity of ‘tinkering around the edges’. Within the speech which was akin to the Leader’s address at a party conference, without the razzmatazz, he stated it was folly to think the anger had receded or the danger has passed with the protocol, at grassroots level. Outlining the threat he sees to the civic and economic integrity of Northern Ireland he said it contravened the legislative Act of Union and Belfast/GFA agreement with an adverse impact on business, food and medicine supplies. Leveraging the words of leading business and academic leaders who put their heads above the Protocol parapet, he quoted M&S Chair Archie Norman on supply chain implications and rising costs as well as leading economist Esmond Birnie who cited that the implementation of the NI Protocol could be as much as £850m a year.

Speaking directly to journalists immediately after the speech Sir Jeffrey said that the options for the UK government are the NI Protocol or the Northern Ireland institutions, ‘Let me be clear if the choice is ultimately between remaining in office or implementing the protocol in its present form, then the only option for any unionist minister would be to cease to hold such office,’ he said. ‘Time is short and consequences will follow.’

This is undoubtedly a huge gamble by the DUP leader, with political opponents highlighting the gravity of it. Mr. Donaldson needs to see these promises or threats through if his party’s concerns aren’t addressed. It is though, perhaps a gamble he felt he had to take as much for his leadership and the electoral restoration of his party as for the future of Unionism itself.