The National:

THURSDAY'S intervention by the Leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, was not a massive surprise, however, it still remains a major disappointment.

It is a disappointment that will leave many people wondering how this will improve matters for anyone across our island - but particularly for those in Northern Ireland?

Over the past number of months, EU officials have worked steadfastly with their UK colleagues to look at measures that can ensure the smoothest possible implementation of the post-Brexit protocol in a manner that does not damage Northern Ireland, be it economically or socially.

Therefore, the timing of Sir Jeffery’s intervention is doubly disappointing given the EU’s reasonable response to the latest extension of grace periods by the British Government, as well as the coinciding of the announcement with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic’s visit to Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: DUP leader threatens to collapse Northern Irish devolution over Brexit chaos

Indeed, the Irish Government has been working constructively with Sir Jeffery and his own party over the past number of weeks, considering several frank but constructive meetings. The Irish Government has been, and will continue to be, a strong voice at EU level to encourage solutions.

It should not be lost on anyone that the extent of difficulties that Brexit is presenting is due to the very nature of the hard Brexit this British Government has pursued. There are obvious solutions to the need for checks in the possibility of an EU-UK veterinary agreement and a focus on closer relations that would be eminently sensible.

While Sir Jeffrey (below) has laid out a long list of difficulties he and his party have with the protocol, perceived and actual, the extent to which solutions are provided is once again lacking.

The National: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

A scant reference to an unacceptable mutual enforcement system that has already been dismissed as unworkable simply isn’t good enough, especially with the not-so-veiled threat to take this action further by collapsing the institutions entirely.

More practically, with so many day-to-day challenges needing continued cooperation on a north/south basis, I struggle to see how withdrawing from the strand two institutions is wise.

What farmer, north or south, benefits from a boycott of the Agriculture North/South Ministerial Council?

How do we collectively come out of the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic without talking to our closest neighbours with whom we share so many challenges?

Sir Jeffrey and his party have repeatedly warned that the concerns of Unionists need to be listened to, I agree with him. But how are those concerns going to be voiced if his Ministers refuse to engage or do not show up to vital ministerial meetings?

No positive agenda is served by blocking practical North/South Cooperation or by the breakdown of the other institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

Brexit is far from done, engagement and realism will provide the best route to solutions; that is where the focus should be rather than cliff edges, ultimatums, and boycotts.