Northern Ireland was thrown into constitutional crisis on Friday after its main unionist party refused to allow the regional legislature to select a speaker until Brexit trade deal with the EU was scrapped.
Elected last week the assembly failed to elect a new speaker after the DUP said it would not support the process as part of its protest in a move that will stop the devolved Assembly from being able to function.
The new 90 MLAs met for the first time in the Stormont chamber on Friday after last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly election saw Sinn Fein emerge as the largest party for the first time.
The first order of business was for MLAs to sign the roll of membership, before the sitting was suspended for lunch.
The DUP has also said that it will not nominate for the position of deputy first minister, which will prevent the forming of a new executive, as part of its protest against the protocol.
Unionists oppose the post-Brexit treaty because of the economic barriers it creates between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill described the DUP move as “disgraceful” and Alliance leader Naomi Long said it was “incredibly frustrating”.
Speaking shortly before the plenary session began, Sir Jeffrey said: “I am here with my Assembly team today for the first sitting of the Assembly.
“My members will be signing the roll and taking their seats for the first time.
“As I have made clear this morning we have taken the decision not at this stage to support the election of a speaker.
“I believe that we need to send a very clear message to the European Union and to our Government that we are serious about getting this protocol sorted out.
“Because of the harm it is doing, undermining political stability, damaging the agreements that have formed the basis of political progress made in Northern Ireland, to our economy, contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, this matter needs to be dealt with.