Brexit: David Frost on Theresa May's EU negotiations
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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has delivered a scathing attack on the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol in his first keynote speech since becoming DUP leader. Mr Donaldson has described the Protocol, which ties Belfast to the EU’s regulatory framework to prevent a hard border, as the “greatest threat to the economic integrity of the UK in any of our lifetimes”.
Speaking to DUP members, the 58-year-old added the Protocol is also a “threat to the living standards of the people of Northern Ireland and the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom”.
The post-Brexit arrangement has angered Unionists as it effectively places a trade border down the Irish Sea.
This has resulted in increased checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that are deemed to be at risk of entering the EU single market.
Mr Donaldson insists the removal of the Protocol is the “only path to stable and sustainable government in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “In the weeks ahead our goal is to remove the Irish Sea border and to preserve and protect the internal UK market.”
Mr Donaldson delivered his first speech as leader amid bitter divisions within the DUP.
Successive revolts over the future direction of the country deposed former leader Arlene Foster and then her successor, Edwin Poots, who quit after just 21 days in the role.
The DUP chief has also made his position on Brexit clear to the UK Government following talks with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Brexit Minister Lord Frost.
Mr Donaldson says Westminster accepts there are issues with the post-Brexit arrangement but has stated there is a long way to go to find a solution.
He said: “This is not the time to talk up a crisis or to unnecessarily raise the temperature, but let me assure you that the Government understands our position and they know what needs to be done.
“I have, in recent days, held a series of meetings on the Protocol, including meetings with the Secretary of State and Lord Frost.
“While the Government is undoubtedly now accepting the case that the Protocol is unsustainable and unacceptable, there is still some way to go to reach an outcome that we can live with.”
On Wednesday, progress was made to reduce friction in Northern Ireland after the UK and EU agreed a truce on the so-called “sausage war”.
Both sides agreed to extend grace periods until the end of September to allow chilled meats to be shipped without checks.
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But, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the extension, agreed on the day current arrangements were due to expire, came with strict conditions.
Lord Frost said: “We are pleased we have been able to agree a sensible extension on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland – one that does not require rules in the rest of the UK to align with future changes in EU agrifood rules.
“This is a positive first step but we still need to agree a permanent solution – Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and its consumers should be able to enjoy products they have bought from Great Britain for years.”
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