Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the new DUP leader, has long been seen as a hardline Brexiteer. He managed the party’s Brexit campaign, linked to some of the most fervent Leavers in the UK. Yet Sir Jeffrey was the first senior figure in his party to try selling a sea border to unionist voters.
In July 2019, while DUP chief whip, he welcomed a proposal from Leo Varadkar then the taoiseach, for an all-Ireland agriculture zone in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This would have meant food inspections and regulatory differences between Britain and Northern Ireland, something that the DUP had ruled out even as a “backstop”.