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DUP urged to make decision over Windsor Framework to restore Stormont

Stormont leaders have urged the DUP to reach a swift conclusion over the Windsor Framework to unlock the powersharing logjam.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with the leaders of some of the political parties during a visit to Northern Ireland to sell the benefits of the deal he has agreed with the EU on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The framework removes the Northern Ireland Protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law.

Mr Sunak met with Naomi Long, leader of the cross-community Alliance Party and Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie in Co Antrim.

The DUP and SDLP leaders are currently in London and Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said she had spoken to Mr Sunak on the phone.

She tweeted: “I welcomed yesterday’s breakthrough. The deal is now done.

“My key message is to let’s keep momentum going.

“The priority must now be getting Stormont up and moving without delay.”

NI Executive Formation Bill
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party would take time to study the Windsor Framework (PA)

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party has been boycotting Stormont, said they would take time to consider the detail of the framework.

But other party leaders urged the DUP to get back to work.

Mrs Long said: “I think we are in the right space.

“Key for us now is we need to get this done. We need to get a decision from the DUP and we need to get back to our day jobs.

“We want to be sitting in committee rooms and in the Assembly chamber doing our jobs.”

“In terms of trading arrangements between the UK and particularly Northern Ireland and the EU, we recognise this is a major step forward.

“This is the deal we could have had in 2019 if we had a serious prime minister who was willing to engage respectfully with the EU.”

Mrs Long did say her party had some concerns about how the Stormont brake, which allows the Northern Ireland assembly to flag concerns about the application of new EU laws on goods, would operate.

She added: “It remains unclear in terms of how it will function, at what level the trigger will be set.

“The one thing we do not want to do is to inject more instability into the institutions at Stormont.”

Brexit
Doug Beattie leader of the Ulster Unionist Part, speaking to the media after meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during his visit to Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Beattie said: “I think the Stormont brake is one of those things which sounds good when you talk about it, but as soon as you start delving into it and understanding how it actually works, it throws up more questions than it does answers.

“But I can see the Prime Minister is working hard to sell this deal and we will work hard to scrutinise it.

“Anyone who is saying this should take weeks and months, I think, is being disingenuous.

“Any political party should be able to look at this and engage with their party at every level and come up with what they believe to be the outcome, certainly within a week or so.

“Stormont could be up and running now. You could have an executive now, and at the same time we could be looking at this framework.

“You can do that at the same time.

“But if we drag this out for months then businesses will be sitting there not knowing whether they are coming or going.

“We need to hear from business, we need to know if it works for them.

“But there is no point dragging it out. People need to show the courage of their convictions, look at the deal, come up with your analysis and make your pitch.”