New Times,
New Thinking.

First job for Jeffrey Donaldson: Tackle the Northern Ireland Protocol

Can the new DUP leader make the Westminster government listen? 

By Stephen Bush

If at first you don’t succeed: Jeffrey Donaldson has been elected as the DUP’s next leader and will in short order be its nominee for first minister. Donaldson, who had been defeated by Edwin Poots a little under a month ago, is now leader-designate following the collapse of Poots’s 21-day leadership.

It represents something of a counter-revolution: Donaldson, like Arlene Foster, is a defector from the UUP and is a relative moderate within the DUP. His ascent to the leadership also poses something of a challenge for the new leader of Donaldson’s old party, Doug Beattie: he has attracted a number of high-profile recruits since taking office, but it isn’t clear if he can retain and entrench those gains with a more moderate (again, relatively speaking) DUP leader.  

Donaldson, like Foster and Poots, starts with one political objective above all: to rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol. Part of that involves impressing upon the European Union the need for flexibility, and it will be hoped that his more conciliatory approach to talking to and about the Irish government compared to Poots will assist with that. But the other part involves ending the dialogue of the deaf between Northern Ireland’s unionist parties and the Westminster government.  

The British government’s preferred “fixes” to the protocol all, for better or for worse, give greater flexibility to big businesses: so that a Tesco in Belfast sells the same goods as one in London. Of course, that’s a bit of a mirage, in that no two Tescos are precisely alike in any case. The protocol’s real political problem is what it means for smaller businesses, in that it heavily incentivises family firms and small enterprises to expand north-south into the Republic of Ireland and not west-east into Britain. That economic reality adds to the demographic pressures on unionism, and it’s that aspect of the protocol that causes real political difficulty for the DUP.  

[see also: What should we expect from Jeffrey Donaldson as DUP leader?]

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
<strong>The future of private credit</strong>
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce