DUP leadership candidate Jeffrey Donaldson has said that he will call on the Prime Minister to convene a summit to “identify solutions” to trading difficulties caused by the NI Protocol, in an internal document setting out his priorities.
In the nine-page document, seen by PA, the Lagan Valley MP also calls for the creation of a formal “coalition for the Union” which would have representatives from Scotland, Wales and regions of England as well as Northern Ireland.
The party’s 28 MLAs and eight MPs will decide whether Mr Donaldson or leadership rival Edwin Poots succeeds the deposed Arlene Foster in a vote, by secret ballot, on Friday.
Mr Donaldson’s manifesto, entitled A Vision For The Union, says he believes in a “strong, strategic and inspiring plan” to strengthen the union.
Under key actions, he suggests: “The creation of a formal coalition for the Union, inclusive of all four countries and also including other UK regions such as the North of England and the South East.
He goes on to call for the “formation of an annual UK wide conference on the Union to bring together people from across civic and political society, business and academia to encourage thinking and promotion of pro-union ideas, research and relationships”.
Mr Donaldson says in the document that the “gravest challenge facing unionism is undoubtedly the NI Protocol”.
He said: “The government’s decision to agree to and implement it has fundamentally changed Northern Ireland’s place within the UK and created a trade barrier in the Irish Sea.
“As unionists, we cannot be silent.
“We must continue to highlight the economic, social and constitutional vandalism that the Protocol is responsible for and it is our job to repair the damage that it has caused.
“It is time for the government to listen.
“It is not too late for the prime minister to do the right thing.
“If the government refuses to recognise the problems with the Protocol and fails to act, they further compound the strength of feeling that exists in the unionist community.”
He added: “We will call on the prime minister to convene a summit on internal UK trade that will identify solutions required to ensure unfettered trade across the United Kingdom.
“Under my leadership, we will continue to vigorously oppose the Protocol, both in principle and in practice.
“There cannot be mixed messaging on this.
“We will work constructively with others to find solutions that work for the people of Northern Ireland and protect our place within the United Kingdom.”