Jeffrey Donaldson says DUP opposition to Northern Ireland protocol vindicated

Party leader says London, Dublin and Brussels now recognise ‘sacrifice of consensus’ politics for deal a mistake

The DUP’s strategy in opposing the Northern Ireland Protocol has been vindicated, party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

Speaking to party members and supporters in Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh, Mr Donaldson said people in London, Dublin and Brussels now recognise that the “sacrifice of consensus politics on the altar of the protocol was a mistake”.

The DUP is blocking the functioning of power-sharing at Stormont, and has made clear it will not allow devolution to return unless major changes to the protocol are delivered.

Talks are ongoing between the UK and the EU over the protocol, part of the post-Brexit deal which keeps Northern Ireland aligned with some EU trade rules. The DUP maintains that the arrangement weakens the North’s place in the UK. Both sides are keen to strike a deal to break the logjam over the protocol before the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement in April.


“We warned London, Washington, Dublin and Brussels in July 2021 that the Northern Ireland protocol was incompatible with power-sharing and our hard-won politically balanced arrangements,” Mr Donaldson said. “We gave time and space for these fundamental concerns to be addressed but that time was not utilised. Instead, some local parties told us that the protocol had to be ‘rigorously implemented’. No one is saying that now.”

Mr Donaldson said the DUP was “seeking the restoration of democratic decision-making to the Assembly, replacing the democratic deficit created by the protocol”.

“Why should anyone want to deny the people of Northern Ireland, through their democratically-elected representatives, a say or a vote on vast swathes of the laws governing our economy and which affect the people of Northern Ireland so directly?”

Mr Donaldson said there was public recognition that ignoring the objections of unionists over the protocol was a mistake, “the greatest misstep would be if the same mistake were to be repeated”.

“Political progress in Northern Ireland has been painstakingly slow at times but it has never been achieved by one side ignoring the concerns of the other. With a divided society we need to work together. Not one unionist MP or MLA supported the protocol. Such a one-sided approach was never going to work. We need a deal that unionists as well as nationalists can support.”

He added: “There will be no solid basis for an Executive and Assembly until the protocol is replaced with arrangements that restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market and our constitutional arrangements are respected.” - PA