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DUP leader tells rally ‘election result will send message over NI protocol’

A Sinn Fein victory in the Stormont Assembly election will send the message that it is “business as usual” with the Northern Ireland Protocol, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP leader spoke at a meeting in Bangor, Co Down, where he said both the British government and the EU now recognized that the protocol needed to be changed.

In a speech ahead of the demonstration, Sir Jeffrey said: “Unionism stands united in opposition to the protocol. It must remain our focus.

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“There are too many splits. This choice will be won and lost on transfers.

“I want all union members to give the DUP their first preference, but I want them to then go ahead and move on to the other pro-union candidates.”

The rally is the latest in a series that has taken place across Northern Ireland, describing unionist and loyalist opposition to the post-Brexit protocol, which sees further control of goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the UK.

It is strongly opposed by unionists as a border in the Irish Sea.

Earlier this year, the DUP withdrew from the Stormont Executive in protest of the protocol, and the party has promised not to re-enter the government after Thursday’s election until their concerns have been resolved.

Sir Jeffrey continued: “The protocol has driven transport costs between GB and NI up by 27% and placed a boundary between us and our main trading partner – the UK, as well as jeopardizing our medicine supply in the midst of a health pandemic.

“We have made progress in convincing many of the benefits of our case. From a position without renegotiation, the EU and the government now recognize the need for change.

“The government knows that the protocol does not enjoy the support of unionists, and Brussels can have no doubt that the protocol has cast its long shadow over Northern Ireland’s political events.

“If Sinn Fein wins this election, the message to London, Dublin and Brussels will be business as usual with the protocol.”

TUV leader Jim Allister, Baroness Kate Hoey and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib in Ballymena
TUV leader Jim Allister, Baroness Kate Hoey and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib in Ballymena

The meeting was also addressed by TUV leader Jim Allister as well as Baroness Kate Hoey and former Brexit party MEP Ben Habib, who is among a group that has initiated proceedings against the protocol, which is to be heard in the Supreme Court.

They also spoke at an anti-protocol meeting held earlier in the day in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

Sir. Allister told the Co Antrim rally that there can be no return to Stormont’s power-sharing leader until the protocol is removed.

A number of loyal order orchestras marched through Ballymena before hundreds of people gathered in the city center to hear speeches.

Allister said: “We must bring the lying Prime Minister who imposed this unfair protocol on us to the point where he has to make a choice.

“And the lever we have is to get the Prime Minister to choose: do you want to save the protocol, or do you want to save Stormont?

“You can not have both.

“And the reason I say you can not get both is very simple: the price for Stormont is to implement the protocol, and it is a price that no unionist can pay or should ever have paid.”

He added: “The core premise of the Protocol is that the GB is a foreign country and that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the EU in terms of trade on what should be the economically integrated island of Ireland.

“The declaration of the GB as a ‘third’ or a foreign country cuts into the heart of the Union.

“It is a little strange that the Court of Appeal admitted that the Protocol was subject to Article 6 of the laws of the Union – the very basis of the economic union of the Union.”

Lady Hoey said: “I think people are angry in the trade union society.

“I think we are angry about the way Northern Ireland has been treated by our own government, but also especially about the way the Irish Government and the EU have worked together to do what they could to separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

“I think we all know how the protocol has separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, the principle of consent that was so crucial to the Belfast / Good Friday agreement that many of us voted for.

“How do we feel betrayed now that the principle of consent has been violated by our own government and by an EU that used Northern Ireland to punish the rest of Britain.

“The price of Brexit for the people of the European Parliament will be Northern Ireland. Well, we will not let that happen.

“None of us want to return to terrible days of violence, but we can not have a situation where our government ignores the majority community in Northern Ireland.”

Referring to Thursday’s Stormont election, Mr Habib said: “We need to have a unionist majority in Stormont, we need to use the unionist majority to bring Stormont down.

“There can be no Stormont as long as the protocol exists.

“If we get that union majority, it’s up to you to hold these politicians to account, to make sure they do what they promised, which is to not allow the executive to form and ensure that Stormont is not reformed. , before the protocol goes.

“You can not have Stormont and the protocol, the protocol must go first.”

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