Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is fiercely opposed to any checks on goods travelling to the province from the mainland UK. They were introduced in January last year as part of the post-Brexit withdrawal agreement signed between the UK and EU.
Since their introduction, Northern Ireland’s Unionist community have repeatedly called for them to be scrapped – claiming they threaten British identity.
Anger over it has led to several nights of rioting amid warnings that it threatens to reignite long-standing sectarian tensions which were brought to an end by the landmark 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
And with grace periods for certain checks due to end in the coming months, manufacturers have said up to 2,000 drugs could become unavailable in the province.
Growing outrage over the situation led to Brussels publishing proposals this week to simplify certain procedures.
READ MORE: Police plea after youths ‘hurl rocks at shoppers’ at designer outlet
“The status quo leaves local businesses exposed to any new barriers to trade with Great Britain if and when the UK and EU rulebooks change in years to come.
“In this context, the flexibilities announced today would offer little certainty or protection.
“There is a need for a durable alternative to the current protocol which avoids a cycle of repeated renegotiation within a failed framework.
“Ultimately east-west trading relationships and the principle of cross-community consent must be restored if we are to prevent further economic carnage and preserve the basis for political stability.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie was equally scathing.
He warned: “Anything that dismantles the oppressive parts of the protocol, that just don’t work, is welcome, but there is so much more common sense that needs to be applied.”
Last week the UK government published plans for a radical overhaul of the Protocol.
The EU responded by insisting the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation but the Protocol could be adapted.
Responding to its latest offer, a Downing Street spokesman said that the EU proposals represented “only a small subset of the many difficulties caused by the way the protocol is operating”.
They added: “We need comprehensive and durable solutions if we are to avoid further disruption to everyday lives in Northern Ireland.”