DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson says talks with UK government ‘moving closer’ to resolution

Dup's Jeffrey Donaldson Says Talks With Uk Government ‘Moving Closer’ To Resolution
Jeffrey Donaldson said there are elements of the Windsor Framework that represent progress. Photo: PA
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By Cillian Sherlock, PA

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said he believes the UK government is “moving closer” to addressing his party’s concerns over post-Brexit trade.

The DUP has been blocking powersharing for more than a year in protest at the internal UK trade barriers created by Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.


The party says the framework deal struck by the EU and the UK to reform the protocol does not sufficiently address its concerns and has made clear it will not accept a return to devolution until the British government provides further assurances, by way of legislation, over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

One of the main parts of the framework – the green/red lane system for the movement of goods – became operational at Northern Ireland ports at the beginning of this month.

Talks between the DUP and the British government have been ongoing over the summer.

Mr Donaldson was responding to BBC Question Time audience member Gary Clark, who asked: “How much longer should the people of Northern Ireland have to tolerate a lack of devolved government and crumbling public services?”



Speaking in Lisburn, Mr Donaldson said there are elements of the Windsor Framework that represent progress, but “there remain some areas that still have to be resolved”.


He added: “I think we are closer to finding a resolution than we were at the beginning of this process when no-one was listening, when the EU said there would be no renegotiation.”

Mr Donaldson said he wanted to see Stormont “back up and running” as the Northern Ireland’s finances are not adequate to deliver effective public services.

However, he said he wanted the institution to be restored on a sustainable basis and under cross-community consensus.

He said: “That is why the DUP at the outset, recognised that the solution for Northern Ireland was not to put a hard border on the island, but equally, the solution is not to put a border in the Irish Sea. There are ways we can resolve this.”


Sorcha Eastwood
Sorcha Eastwood said the DUP should ‘get out of the way’ if it did not want to return to powersharing (Liam McBurney/PA)

In answering the question, Alliance MLA Sorcha Eastwood said Northern Ireland should not be without a government for “a second longer”.

Ms Eastwood then told Mr Donaldson that the people of Lagan Valley were “hurting” due to the collapse of Northern Ireland’s institutions.


She added: “Every single one of those families is hurting. People getting sicker on waiting lists, schools having to collect money for books, toilet roll, everything else.

“This is not our first rodeo. It wasn’t right whenever Sinn Féin did it. It certainly isn’t right whenever you’re doing it.

“And you know what we are saying? Not a minute longer, not a single minute longer. You’ve made a decision, and it’s the wrong decision.”


She added: “We understand that you have a problem but here’s where it becomes everyone else’s problem.

“You don’t get to take your ball and go off the pitch just because it’s something you don’t like. We didn’t like Brexit but we worked on it, we made it happen and you know what?

“Our job is to govern, our job is to stand for election and do our job. So if you don’t want to do the job, get out of the way.”

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane described “as the outworking of a Brexit project that the DUP championed and welcomed with open arms”.

He said it was “anti-democratic” not to return to powersharing.

John Finucane comments
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane said the collapse of Northern Ireland’s institutions was a consequence of Brexit (Liam McBurney)

Mr Finucane highlighted an upcoming investment conference in the North and said attending US firms would be seeking “political stability”.

He said: “So not a single day longer should we have to wait for the absence of an assembly. We need an assembly. We need an executive.

“Where I will agree with Jeffrey is that we need an executive with a single voice, demanding the resources to begin to tackle the problems that this room know that we have, but the way to do that is not outside – it’s inside taking your place along with everybody else.”

In response, Mr Donaldson highlighted that Mr Finucane and other Sinn Féin MPs do not take their seats at Westminster.

He also criticised Ms Eastwood for talking about a “politics of exclusion” by suggesting Unionists should get out of the way.

Cabinet meeting
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris was accused of implementing a punishment budget (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told the Question Time audience that “this place operates on consensus” and he could not intervene in the DUP’s decision not to enter Stormont to govern.

He said: “So my job has been to try and sort out the just concerns, and some of them are very just, for the Unionist community and their politicians.”

Asked if a deal with the DUP was imminent, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “I would love it to be. I think we are in the final phases of a wonderful group of talks.”

Asked if he agreed talks were in the final phases, Mr Donaldson said: “We are moving closer.”

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn said checks on goods on Northern Ireland have to be implemented sensibly and sensitively

He added: “The question is, is that principle of how the checks operate on the green lane big enough to continue to mean that Northern Ireland has no government?

“And all I can tell you is since I was appointed on September 4, just about every conversation I’ve had with all the people I’ve been meeting has come back down to: ‘We haven’t got a functioning government and we need a functioning government’.

“The people of Northern Ireland need it and the current budget is not sustainable, for the reasons that have been set out so clearly, and that needs to change too.”

Hilary Benn visits NI
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Hilary Benn (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Heaton-Harris was directly criticised from the audience for “washing his hands” of responsibility for having a functioning Executive in Northern Ireland.

It was put to him that he had imposed a “punishment budget” on Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Secretary rejected this, saying it was a “misunderstanding of what is happening here”.

He said the money was set aside in the Spending Review “properly and thoroughly” and that Westminster could not impose itself on Northern Ireland.

He added: “How it’s spent is determined by the executive, if there was an executive sitting. and as someone did say, what all this needs is a joined-up approach and that’s exactly what you have ministers for.”

He later said he was “happy to talk with a reformed executive about what makes a budget sustainable”.

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