Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan has said he agrees with new DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson that the Northern Ireland Protocol is creating political instability.
Sir Jeffrey was confirmed as the DUP’s next leader on Tuesday, following the resignation of Edwin Poots, and immediately said he would be speaking to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deliver his message over the Brexit deal.
“I will be speaking with the Prime Minister at the earliest opportunity to emphasise that it is not realistic to expect stability when every unionist representative in the devolved institutions opposes the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.
The UK Government and the EU are locked in a dispute over the implementation of the protocol, the part of the Brexit divorce deal aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland.
During an event at Stormont, current First Minister Paul Givan said that the protocol “needs to go”.
He added: “The Northern Ireland Protocol is something that has caused huge disruption. It is not working and when the grace periods end we are looking at upwards of 15,000 checks per week and that is just not a sustainable place for Northern Ireland to be.
“Stormont has a job to do on the bread and butter issues, but absolutely the Northern Ireland Protocol creates instability because of the way it has violated the workings of the internal United Kingdom market.”
Mr Givan said he expects his new party leader to return to Stormont from his current Westminster role and to take the First Minister post that he currently holds.
“Jeffrey has made clear that he does want to come back to Stormont in due course and wants to be First Minister and Jeffrey will make an exceptional First Minister, nobody doubts that.”
But Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy said the problems with the protocol were of the DUP’s own making.
He added: “We want the protocol arrangements to work. They wouldn’t have been necessary if it hadn’t been for the new leader of the DUP and his party colleagues pushing the hardest possible Brexit with the Tory party, that is why the protocol was necessary, to try and undo some of that damage.
“If there are issues around it which need to be worked through, there are processes for doing that and that is where we need to do that, not out on the streets, not with harsh rhetoric and winding people up and talking about constitutional threats to people.
“These are issues that whenever you leave trading arrangements there are inevitably going to be barriers and problems, we need to work those through sensibly.”
Mr Murphy said that the Stormont Executive now needed a period of stability to deal with the challenges of Covid and Brexit.
He said: “There has been turmoil in the Executive for some time, it has been well recognised that the difficulties ongoing within the DUP have caused difficulties for the Executive. We want to see the Executive functioning.
“We are still in the grips of a pandemic, we have huge challenges in our health service, we have economic challenges facing us. We have the challenges of Brexit. So there is a lot to be got on with and we want a period to be able to do that sensibly and quietly and we don’t need this notion that there is some crisis brewing here. Things need to be dealt with and move on in a sensible way, that is what people expect of us.”