DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is to outline his willingness to collapse the Stormont institutions over the Northern Ireland Protocol, it has been reported.
he MP is to give an address on Thursday to announce the next steps in his party’s campaign to remove the protocol. European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic is visiting the region to meet political and business leaders.
Last month, Sir Jeffrey said the situation could not continue as it was and warned “decisions were imminent”.
The BBC reports he will outline his willingness to pull his party out of Stormont, collapsing the power-sharing institutions. He is also expected to harden his stance on north-south engagement.
The party has over recent months not attended some meetings saying it will not partake in talks if the protocol is on the agenda.
A senior source told the broadcaster the speech will mark a ”significant hardening of the DUP position and will place the onus on London and Brussels to act or run the risk of dragging Northern Ireland backwards, all the progress made from 2007 will be lost”.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU as a way to maintain a free-flowing land border on the island of Ireland.
This week the UK unilaterally extended grace periods which have been in place to ease the impact of the protocol.
In a statement on Wednesday, Sir Jeffrey stressed the protocol was “not just a unionist problem”.
“Senior economist at the University of Ulster Business School, Dr Esmond Birnie recently suggested that the cost of the Northern Ireland protocol could be in the region of £850 million per year,” he said.
“That is money we simply cannot afford to lose. And though I am alarmed by the constitutional implications of the protocol, it is assuredly not simply a unionist issue. In recent days Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman warned that customers in Northern Ireland could face a “substantial reduction in food supply” and price increases later this year.”
Sir Jeffrey said he welcomed the recent publication of the UK’s command paper as a “step in the right direction”, but he added: “in the absence of actual progress, we cannot remain in this political limbo”.
“There are three key issues – movement of goods, standards and governance. It is essential that all are addressed,” he said.
“This is not simply a question of limiting checks at the border or moving the checks from the border.
“It must mean that, save for the most limited circumstances, EU law would not apply in Northern Ireland.
“And it must mean that where there is a dispute, we are not being asked to argue our case in front of a judicial system created by one of the parties to that dispute.”
The DUP, under previous leader Arlene Foster, previously announced a campaign to ditch the protocol.
In February it vowed to actively oppose any negative measures, laws or bills that flowed from the protocol and undermined Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.
They then also put the Dublin and London governments on notice that the party will not participate in any talks with the Irish government related to the protocol, warning that north-south relations would be “impacted”.