Government legislation to empower ministers to scrap the bulk of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol will restore the region’s place within the UK, the leader of the DUP has said.
Giving his assessment of the contentious Bill, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it could remove the “long shadow of the protocol” from Northern Ireland.
However, Sir Jeffrey said that would only happen if the laws were enacted, along with associated regulations to implement their provisions.
Addressing a party gathering in the Newry and Armagh constituency, the DUP leader did not commit to a timetable to re-engaging with the powersharing institutions at Stormont.
The DUP has blocked the establishment of a new ministerial executive following last month’s Assembly election in protest at the protocol, which has created economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
This week the UK moved without EU consent to table legislation that could see much of the protocol axed.
The post-Brexit trading arrangements were agreed between the EU and UK during the Brexit divorce talks.
Brussels has reacted angrily to the UK’s move and has warned of retaliatory measures if the Bill is progressed.
Sir Jeffrey said: “During the election campaign, we indicated that we believed in devolved government and wanted to see the long shadow of the protocol removed so that we could see the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the full functioning of the Northern Ireland Executive.
“That remains our position.
“We are closely examining the details of the Bill but it is our view that if this Bill becomes law, alongside regulations, it will remove that long shadow of the protocol from Northern Ireland.
“It will, in our view, restore our place in the Union and allow a restoration of the equilibrium in Northern Ireland.
“The DUP, in line with its mandate, wants to fully participate in a newly established Northern Ireland Executive in order to implement the other elements of our (election campaign) five-point plan.
“I have appointed a number of DUP MLAs to engage with other parties and the civil service to engage in discussions on what a future programme for government may contain.
“As well as the ongoing daily work being undertaken by our own ministerial team we are also working with both the minister of health and the minister of justice on groups looking at the future of our health system and the need to tackle online harm.
“But we cannot ignore the reality that unlike the last Executive, any incoming Executive cannot have its agenda blighted by the real-world issues and problems that have flowed from the failed Northern Ireland Protocol.
“If we get new arrangements that restore our position within the United Kingdom then Northern Ireland can move forward focused on devolved matters.”