Varadkar ‘disappointed’ DUP will not return to Stormont

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he was “disappointed to hear” that the DUP is not willing to re-enter the Northern Ireland Assembly in its continuing protest against post-Brexit trade agreements.

It comes after EU member states approved the Windsor Framework on Tuesday, and a key element of the EU-UK agreement – the Stormont brake – was endorsed by 515 votes to 29 in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The DUP voted against it, with party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson saying the party wanted assurances that EU law could not impede Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the UK.

He has made clear that his party will not return to Stormont in its protest against the trade agreements.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said people in Northern Ireland need politicians in Stormont to tackle “big problems”.

“We will continue to engage with the five major parties in Northern Ireland and the British Government to do anything we can over the next weeks and months to get those institutions back up and running,” he said.

“I don’t think all is lost yet. I’d really like to see the institutions back up and running as it should be.

“I think it is premature to be talking about direct rule, quite frankly.”

He added it was the position of the Irish government that direct rule was not provided for under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Varadkar welcomed the result of the Westminster vote and said he was confident the UK Government and European Union would implement the Windsor Framework.

“It allows us to go on and implement it in good faith,” he said.