DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson says the protocol bill could restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson said that new legislation being introduced regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol could be enough to “reclaim our place in the union”.

Peaking during a party rally in the constituency of Newry and Armagh, Sir Geoffrey said that if the Westminster Bill passed it would “remove that long shadow of the Protocol from Northern Ireland”.

The bill, which is moving through the House of Commons, will give power ministers the power to overrule most of the protocol.

Sir Geoffrey has yet to commit to bringing his party back to the executive table and said it would depend on whether the bill, along with the ordinances, becomes law.

Since then, the European Union has warned that if the law is passed, there will be retaliatory measures.

During his speech, Sir Geoffrey said: “The protocol creates economic barriers between Northern Ireland and our largest market. This increases the cost of living for people here and limits the choices on the shelves.

“The imposition of the Protocol also broke the communal consensus on which political progress was based. Not a single member of the MLA union supported him, but the NI forced him.”

He added: “During the election campaign, we indicated that we believe in decentralized government and want the long shadow of the Protocol to be removed so that we can see the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the full functioning of Northern Ireland. Executive. This remains our position.

“We are looking into the details of the bill closely, but in our opinion, if this bill becomes law, along with the bylaws, it will take that long shadow of the Protocol out of Northern Ireland. This, in our view, will restore our place in the Union and restore balance to Northern Ireland.”

Sir Geoffrey said he has instructed several MLA DUPs to work with other parties and the civil service to work on a possible program for the government.

“If we get new arrangements that restore our position in the UK, then Northern Ireland can move forward focusing on delegated issues,” he said.

Regarding the recent Assembly elections, in which Sinn Féin emerged as Stormont’s largest party, Sir Geoffrey said he blamed the result on a “split union”.

“I know that building a more cohesive trade union movement cannot be achieved by a single party. This requires cooperation and effort from all of us who want to strengthen their place in the Union. However, I can guarantee that there will be no shortage of DUP in this process and I will do everything in my power to facilitate this through the unions.”

Earlier, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beatty said he voiced his objections during a virtual meeting with European Commission Vice President Maros Szefkovic.

“I challenged Maros Shefkovic about his latest comments and told him that his intervention was very useless,” he said.

“A negotiated solution is possible, but Maros Shefkovic’s comments make it more difficult. To say that British goods entering Northern Ireland will always be subject to inspections and that the EU is now responsible for public health in Northern Ireland is too far-fetched and the Ulster Unionist Party cannot accept it.”

He said the EU “did not get sovereignty” and that unions were now committed to a protocol bill that would secure Northern Ireland’s place in the UK home market.

“Indeed, it will be absolutely necessary to defend the Belfast Agreement in the absence of a negotiated solution,” he said.

“Negotiations at this level represent high stakes for many businesses and communities here in Northern Ireland.”

He added: “I respectfully remind Maros Szefkovic and his EU colleagues that if it were not for the role of trade unions through the Ulster Unionist Party, the Belfast Agreement would never have happened. The Agreement was based on consensus, and anyone who now plays the card of majority rule is going against every tendon of the Agreement itself. In the past, we have been highly critical of the role of the UK Government in how it handled Brexit and signed the Protocol in the first place, and we cannot ignore the EU’s responsibility for exacerbating an already toxic political environment.

“If the EU is serious about defending the Belfast Agreement, then it should focus on resuming direct negotiations with the UK government. The July 2021 UK Command Paper, which contained some of the Ulster Unionist Party’s proposals and the solutions proposed in the UK Government’s Protocol Bill, should form part of the negotiations. They shouldn’t be fired.”