The head of Manufacturing Northern Ireland has said that the business community he represents has had to "step in" because politicians have "exited the stage," in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol and its potential impact on the sector.

"That's not a very comfortable place for business. Business and politics doesn’t mix particularly well," said Stephen Kelly.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Business, Mr Kelly said he has been on the receiving end of a number of threats due to his representations on behalf of Manufacturing Northern Ireland.

"It’s a pattern of people trying to bully you into being silent and being complicit in some of the choices that they are making," he said.

"This week is another attempt at that. The business community has no political axe to grind. We’ve a responsibility towards our own constituency which is about making sure that when they get in on a Monday morning, they can generate enough money to pay the wages on a Friday.

"Some people believe, particularly on this Brexit issue, that you’re taking a particular political stance but that’s simply not the case. This Brexit issue, for business, is an existential issue for many.

"Despite all the challenges and the attacks that have come towards myself and others in the business community, we're still focused on what the prize is.

"The prize is that we get a post Brexit protocol arrangement that recognises the unique challenge and opportunity that Northern Ireland has."

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Meanwhile, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said the British government's legislation could remove the "long shadow of the protocol" from Northern Ireland.

However, he said that would only happen if the laws were enacted, along with associated regulations to implement their provisions.

Addressing a party gathering in the Newry and Armagh constituency, Mr Donaldson did not commit to a timetable to re-engaging with the powersharing institutions at Stormont.

The DUP has blocked the establishment of a new ministerial executive following last month's Assembly election in protest at the protocol, which has created economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

This week the UK moved without EU consent to table legislation that could see much of the protocol axed.

The post-Brexit trading arrangements were agreed between the EU and UK during the Brexit divorce talks.

Brussels has reacted angrily to the UK's move and has warned of retaliatory measures if the bill is progressed.

Mr Donaldson said: "During the election campaign, we indicated that we believed in devolved government and wanted to see the long shadow of the protocol removed so that we could see the re-establishment of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the full functioning of the Northern Ireland Executive.

"That remains our position.

"We are closely examining the details of the bill but it is our view that if this bill becomes law, alongside regulations, it will remove that long shadow of the protocol from Northern Ireland.

"It will, in our view, restore our place in the Union and allow a restoration of the equilibrium in Northern Ireland.

"The DUP, in line with its mandate, wants to fully participate in a newly established Northern Ireland Executive in order to implement the other elements of our (election campaign) five-point plan.

"I have appointed a number of DUP MLAs to engage with other parties and the civil service to engage in discussions on what a future programme for government may contain.

"As well as the ongoing daily work being undertaken by our own ministerial team we are also working with both the minister of health and the minister of justice on groups looking at the future of our health system and the need to tackle online harm.

"But we cannot ignore the reality that unlike the last Executive, any incoming Executive cannot have its agenda blighted by the real-world issues and problems that have flowed from the failed Northern Ireland Protocol.

"If we get new arrangements that restore our position within the United Kingdom then Northern Ireland can move forward focused on devolved matters."

Additional reporting PA