Northern Ireland’s DUP not convinced by London to restore government

BELFAST (Reuters) – The biggest pro-British political party in Northern Ireland said on Wednesday there had been no meaningful action from London to convince it to rejoin a provincial power-sharing government it scuppered last year over post-Brexit trade rules.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) collapsed the devolved executive 17 months ago in protest at the first post-Brexit agreement with the EU and then rejected a fresh deal struck in February to end many of the new trade checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The British government subsequently pledged to introduce laws to further protect trade with Northern Ireland and placate the DUP, but has not tabled any proposals ahead of the British parliament’s six-week recess that begins on Thursday.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said there remained “no solid basis” to restore the devolved assembly, which cannot sit without the region’s largest pro-British unionist party.

“The government committed to taking action to restore our place in the UK internal market but whilst statements and headlines have been in plentiful supply, there has been a lack of meaningful action,” Donaldson said in a statement after a meeting with Britain’s Northern Ireland minister.

Unlike the rest of the UK, since Brexit, Northern Ireland has effectively remained in the EU’s single market to keep its land border with Ireland open, a key aspect of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended decades of sectarian bloodshed.

It is unclear whether any possible legislative changes would be compatible with the revised EU-UK trade deal, the Good Friday Agreement or even satisfy the DUP’s concerns.

The DUP and all regional parties are also seeking British government funds for services after London refused to increase spending in April’s annual budget for Northern Ireland.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said last month he hoped power-sharing could be restored in September while the British government is hosting an investment conference in Belfast on Sept. 12 to 13 to talk up its new post-Brexit deal for the region.

The British parliament resumes on Sept. 4, leaving little time to restore power-sharing ahead of the conference.

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson and Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Josie Kao)