Good morning John

Our phased withdrawal from the Northern Ireland Executive in February 2022 was designed to highlight to the UK Government and the EU that they needed to address unionist concerns about the NI Protocol, which for too long had been ignored, and to spotlight the harm it was doing to Northern Ireland’s place in the Union.


Our view on this has not changed.  Despite the misguided analysis of some, and the prejudiced commentary from others who have always cheer-led for the original Protocol, we have remained focused on our aims and objectives, determined to secure further progress at this time. 


Over the last two years we have shaped and influenced the debate.  The DUP confronted the realities, exposed the flaws, and set a new narrative that others have been compelled to accept.  Which of the Protocol cheer-leading parties would now dare to say that they support and accept the original Protocol? 


Yet that was the case advanced by Sinn Fein, the SDLP and even the mighty ‘rigorous implementors’ of the Alliance Party who all got it so badly wrong.  Now Alliance wants to exclude the largest Unionist party from powersharing and proceed on the basis of ‘majority rule’ – something they claimed to oppose for decades.


This stands in marked contrast to their silence and impotence when Sinn Fein withdrew their consent for government for three whole years.  No pressure then from Alliance for the exclusion of republicans.  Instead, Alliance members posed for photographs with Sinn Fein in support of their demands on the Irish language being met before the Executive could be restored.


The desire of Alliance to now abandon the politics of cross community consensus highlights their double standards when it comes to these matters and signifies just how dismissive they are of unionist concerns. 


Let us be clear – Unionists will not be treated as second class citizens and excluded because some choose to abandon one of the key principles at the heart of the Belfast Agreement.  Our mandate is just as valid as that of any other Party.


Throughout this period, it is the DUP alone which has led from the front in our determination to replace the Protocol.


We have been able to lead and challenge because of that democratic mandate given to us by unionist voters in the last two Northern Ireland-wide elections. 


We have a mandate to take the necessary political action to resolve the issues that confront us because we have campaigned to secure arrangements that restore our place within the United Kingdom.


Any new arrangements must be capable of commanding the support of Unionists as well as Nationalists.  That is what consensus means.


The rights of Unionists cannot be diminished, side-lined, or treated in a way that is less important than those of Nationalists. 


Our economic rights as British citizens that were protected under Article 6 of the Acts of Union were recklessly diminished by the Northern Ireland Protocol as confirmed all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.  As the late Lord Trimble said, this undermined the Principle of Consent and harmed our place in the Union.  It is our task to repair that damage. 


Those balances will have to be restored, and our rights respected and protected, if we are to build the truly shared future that we desire.


Our discussions with the Government continue.  We are making progress but there remains more work to do.  I am hopeful that remaining concerns can be addressed as quickly as possible.


Our objectives include, restoring and futureproofing in law our economic rights under the Acts of Union, thus ensuring our ability to trade freely within the UK Internal Market, and securing further measures that will strengthen Northern Ireland’s place within the Union.


The default route for goods moving from GB to NI should be through the UK’s own internal market system.  And within that system, goods should move smoothly.  It is simply not right that within the UK, businesses and traders who pose no risk of criminality or smuggling or disease risk should have their goods subject to physical inspections.


There will come a point when we have to determine if the outcome of the discussions measures up to our objectives and whether there is a sustainable basis for moving forward.


As I said at our recent Conference, this Party has a proven track-record of saying yes, and leading from the front, when it’s right to do so.   


Equally, we will not be afraid to say no if we conclude that what is on offer does not adequately deal with our fundamental concerns and is not in the best long-term interests of our place in the Union. 


We will take our own counsel and our own decisions.  We will always act in the best interests of Northern Ireland and never act to undermine the Union.


Together, we will succeed.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
DUP Leader

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