Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s warning shot for Boris Johnson as he prepares for DUP ‘coronation’

Clodagh Kilcoyne/ Sir Jeffrey Donaldson/ REUTERS

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is set to become the DUP’s next leader, as he warned Boris Johnson on Monday that the “failure” to fix the Northern Ireland Protocol could throw the future of power-sharing into doubt.

In what is expected to be an effective “coronation”, Sir Jeffrey, the party’s Westminster leader, has confirmed his second leadership bid and is now poised to replace Edwin Poots, who was forced out last week.

If no rival comes forward before 12pm on Tuesday, he will be confirmed as leader by the weekend. He will become the second leader of the DUP after Arlene Foster was forced off at the last minute.

Sir Jeffrey demanded that the DUP put aside weeks of infighting and said that the party must ” unify in the face of the threats posed for Northern Ireland by protocol”.

He warned the Prime Minister that the protocol was being used to prevent a hard Irish border following Brexit.

It comes days after DUP senior figures stated to The Telegraph that Stormont Assembly was at risk unless Johnson took swift action to fix the major trade disruption caused by protocol in Northern Ireland.

In a statement issued on Monday, Sir Jeffrey said: “If elected, I will ensure that the Government doesn’t just listen, but recognises the need to take decisive action to deal quickly with the protocol.

“A failure of action will undoubtedly have implications for the stability and prosperity of our economic institutions.”

Sources in Belfast claimed that Sir Jeffrey would be leaving Westminster to take his place at Stormont.

It is unclear if DUP members will move immediately to make room for them, or whether they will remain in the UK Parliament through the election.

He will likely be First Minister if the assembly seats are secured. Paul Givan who has only been in the job for a week would then have to leave.

Sir Jeffrey could also order early assembly elections unless there is a withdrawal by the UK Government of its commitment to Westminster to legislating on the protection of the Irish language, if it has not been done in Northern Ireland prior the 30 September deadline.

It was the price demanded by Sinn Fein for continuing power-sharing, but it has enraged unionists, who have accused ministers of interfering in devolution.

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