Donaldson makes clear DUP will not return to Stormont

Donaldson makes clear DUP will not return to Stormont

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has made clear that his party will not return to Stormont in their continuing protest against post-Brexit trade agreements.

The DUP began its boycott of Stormont last year over concerns that the Northern Ireland Protocol created a sea border in the UK internal market.

The Windsor Framework attempted to rectify these concerns by creating a red lane/green lane system to reduce checks, and the Stormont brake – a veto against new EU laws being implemented in Northern Ireland.

While Sir Jeffrey admitted that progress had been made, the party stated it would vote against the Stormont brake in the House of Commons on Wednesday, a vote that is being taken as an indication of support for the overall framework.

The vote passed despite DUP opposition.

“I have consistently indicated that fundamental problems remain notwithstanding progress made,” he tweeted.

“Consequently, there is not a sustainable basis at this stage to enable us to restore Stormont.

“We will vote against the proposal today & continue to engage with the government to secure clarification, reworking & change.”

Speaking in the Commons Sir Jeffrey added that the DUP would “work intensively to solve these issues… in the knowledge that what has already been achieved has been because we were not prepared to accept the undermining of Northern Ireland’s place within the union of the United Kingdom”.

The Government has previously said that the Framework will not be renegotiated with the EU and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is set to formally adopt the Windsor Framework at a meeting of the joint committee on the Withdrawal Agreement in London on Friday.

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill called for the DUP to end the blockade of Stormont and return to devolved government.

“The public have been punished for long enough by this futile and shameful DUP blockade,” she said.

Ms O’Neill also called on other parties to work to get the Assembly functioning again to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the Windsor Framework.

“The onus is on the British and Irish governments and all parties – not least the DUP – to now get Stormont moving,” Ms O’Neill said.

“It’s time to move forward. We need to see the Assembly and executive working now to address the problems in our health service and deliver for business, for workers and families.

“We now have unprecedented economic opportunities to strengthen our economy and create more and better jobs.

“Further blocking the formation of an executive will only deepen the chaos caused by Brexit and discourage international investors.

“Our people and our economy can’t wait. We need stability and we need to see the executive in place without any further delays.”

The Alliance Party voted for the Stormont brake on Wednesday.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the party had reservations about the mechanism but was assured that safeguards were in place around its operation.

“We have given the Windsor Framework a broad welcome,” he said.

“While it isn’t perfect, we recognise it is a significant upgrade from the original protocol.

“Alliance didn’t support Brexit, but thanks to the hard Brexit pursued by the UK Government and DUP, we need to address the particular challenges posed to our region. The Windsor Framework offers us an even softer landing than before and provides practical answers to a range of problems highlighted over the past few years.”

The SDLP and UUP have both expressed concern with elements of the Framework but urged restoration of the Assembly.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party does not like the Stormont brake, but were in overall agreement with the framework.

“The reality is we will vote for this because it has been made very clear that this is a vote on the whole Framework and we have been through many a negotiation in the past,” he said.

“We know, we understand when the negotiation is done and a decision has to be made. In every single negotiation, in every single agreement, there has been, there have been parts of those agreements that we haven’t liked, but we have had to stomach it for the greater good of the people of Northern Ireland.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie highlighted the importance of the Stormont Assembly in dealing with the framework moving forward.

“The Windsor Framework has genuine opportunities, and it has serious challenges,” he said.

“The Ulster Unionist Party believes that in order to realise the opportunities and challenge the multiple issues then we need a functioning devolved government.

“The vote on the Stormont brake has shown that the UK Government are moving on and that the DUP boycott has failed.

“Unionism has a decision to make, do we want to have influence via the Assembly and executive, or do we want to be nothing more than passengers with no say over the direction we are headed? The Ulster Unionist Party is clear as to which is best for Northern Ireland.”