Sir Jeffrey Donaldson may try to steer unionist opinion away from scrapping the protocol. But the UK government does not care
The past eight weeks have rocked Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party to its core, perhaps terminally. So it is not surprising that most of the DUP has reacted to the unopposed election of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as the party’s third leader since Easter with something like exhausted relief. Sir Jeffrey will be confirmed as leader on Saturday, but he is already benefiting from a general sense that the recent period of fevered inner-party turmoil, in which Arlene Foster and Edwin Poots were each removed in short order as DUP leaders, could not be permitted to continue.
Feelings remain very high, however, and it is possible that Sir Jeffrey’s expected move against Northern Ireland’s first minister, Paul Givan, a Poots nominee, may rekindle the DUP civil war. It may therefore prove less bothersome if Mr Givan, installed only last week in a manoeuvre that backfired spectacularly on Mr Poots, stays on for a while, until Sir Jeffrey can join the Northern Ireland assembly and take over. That depends on how Mr Givan and his more fundamentalist wing of the party created by Ian Paisley in 1971 respond. A bitter radio interview by Mr Poots this week suggests wounds are deep.