Windsor Framework not yet acceptable, DUP MP warns
A senior DUP MP has said he would advise party colleagues to oppose the new Brexit deal on Northern Ireland trade if further movement is not secured.
Gregory Campbell said the Windsor Framework was better than the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, but it was still “not what we need to see”.
The DUP, which collapsed powersharing in Northern Ireland in protest at the protocol, has yet to come to a collective decision on whether to back the framework and return to devolution.
Mr Campbell and other senior party figures, including Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley and Lord Dodds, have all expressed concern at the UK/EU agreement.
Earlier this week, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson established a consultation panel to inform its deliberations on the new deal.
It will report back by the end of March.
Sir Jeffrey said the panel had held its first meeting on Friday morning and elected former party leader and first minister Peter Robinson as chair.
Sir Jeffrey added: “As we continue to engage in discussions with the Government I would encourage a broad section of unionism and loyalism, businesses and all those who want to see Northern Ireland prosper within the union to take part in the consultation process.”
The UK Government has pledged to publish domestic legislation that it insists will provide further assurances to the DUP on Northern Ireland’s place within the UK and on how the new arrangements will operate in practice.
“It’s a bit better than what went before but it’s not what we need to see,” East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell told BBC Radio Ulster.
“And that’s what we need to now work on and we need to see from the Government.
“We’re doing our internal consultations, and you’ve seen proposals that Jeffrey has put out there, and that’s good and proper that we do that.
“But the Government now need to be demonstrating what they are going to do, because we’ve all examined the good ship Windsor and there are holes in it, we need to see are the holes below the waterline or is it a seaworthy vessel and that’s what we’re going to be doing in the next couple of weeks.”
He added: “If the Secretary of State said there’s going to be a vote in the House of Commons if that vote comes in the next week or two, the way things stand I would be recommending that our party vote against the proposals, because they are not what we need to see and, until they are, I wouldn’t be voting in favour of them.”
Mr Campbell said he was confident the DUP would reach a position by the end of March.
“I think this needs to be wrapped up fairly quickly,” he said.
“When I say fairly quickly, we need to do it systematically but promptly, but at the same time, we’re not going to drag things out, you know, had we simply reacted immediately, we would have been accused of a knee jerk reaction. So we’re not doing that.
“On the other extreme, you know, if we were to drag it out, people would have said, ‘no, you’re not taking this seriously, you’re just trying to prolong things’.
“We’re not going to do that either. We’ll look at it systematically and seriously and come to a final conclusion very shortly.”
On Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris indicated that MPs would get a vote on the Windsor Framework before the end of the month.
The framework will reduce the volume of Brexit red tape on the movement of GB goods bound for Northern Ireland that was created by the Northern Ireland Protocol.
It also introduces a mechanism, the so-called Stormont brake, that enables a minority of Stormont MLAs to formally flag concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in Northern Ireland in a move that could ultimately lead to the UK Government vetoing their introduction.
When the deal was published it was suggested that if 30 MLAs pulled the brake then the Government would make its own assessment of the proposed new EU law before making a final decision on whether to veto it.
However, Mr Heaton-Harris said on Thursday that, if the brake was activated, the Government would be “bound” to block the new law.
Some Stormont parties have expressed concern on whether his comments indicate that the brake will end up handing a powerful veto to a minority of MLAs.
Firm details on how the brake will operate are set to be outlined in secondary legislation published by the Government in the coming weeks.