The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson said that in the future DUP ministers would seek to block any additional checks at the ports in Northern Ireland that arise from the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Donaldson made the comment on Thursday during a speech as European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic started a two-day visit to Northern Ireland for talks on the protocol by engaging with business, civil society, and political representatives.
Northern Ireland is at the centre of the post-Brexit trade dispute between Britain and the European Union (EU).
As part of the Brexit deal, the Northern Ireland Protocol stipulates that Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market and customs union to avoid a hard border between the region and the Republic of Ireland.
However, this leads to a new “regulatory” border between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Donaldson said he would provide a window of opportunity for solutions to be found, warning that the time frame for resolving issues can be measured in the weeks, not months or years.
“The full impact of the protocol has not yet been felt partly because of the grace period,” he said, referring to the light-touch checks for supermarket products that will expire at the end of September.
“Regardless of what the position of the UK government or of the EU, in the future the DUP ministers would seek to block any additional checks at the ports in Northern Ireland that arise from the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.
“If the choice is ultimately between remaining in office or implementing the protocol in its present form, then the only option for any unionist minister would be to cease to hold such office.”
Britain has said the way the protocol is operating is unacceptable because its rigid implementation has severely disrupted trade, adversely affected consumers, hit businesses in Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and contributed to political instability.
The British government unveiled a paper in July for significant changes to the protocol, which was rejected by the EU.