Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said that talks with the British government “are making progress” but that more needs to be done before the party would return to the region’s power-sharing executive.
(Bloomberg) — Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party said that talks with the British government “are making progress” but that more needs to be done before the party would return to the region’s power-sharing executive.
“All eyes are upon us,” DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said at his party’s annual conference in Belfast on Saturday. “I am hopeful that remaining concerns can be addressed as quickly as possible.”
The party “will not be afraid to say no” if the offer from the British government “does not adequately deal with our fundamental concerns,” he said.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since February 2022, when the DUP collapsed the Stormont executive over the post-Brexit trading arrangements agreed between the UK and European Union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Tweaks to the deal known as the Windsor Framework had failed to persuade the DUP to back down.
There had been speculation that Donaldson would announce an end to its protest over the rules it said undermined Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. Donaldson’s speech will have been watched closely by officials in Ireland and the UK for any indication of the DUP’s current position.
The standoff has been a major headache for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s UK government, while threatening to undermine Northern Ireland’s peace process. The DUP has been in talks with the British government and has been seeking legislative assurances of Northern Ireland’s place with the UK.
Donaldson said that power-sharing in Northern Ireland is important for the region and that direct-rule from the UK parliament in Westminster is not an option that would be beneficial for the region. “Time and again, Westminster has imposed laws upon us that are not in tune with the needs or wishes of the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.
There has been speculation about arrangements should the power-sharing executive not be restored. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in September a “plan B” may be needed if the political stalemate was not resolved.
The DUP wants to ensure that Northern Ireland and its people are treated the same as the rest of the UK. They’re also trying to prevent checks on goods moving between the region and Britain. Ahead of the conference, Donaldson confirmed the held talks with the UK opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer about the de facto trade border in the Irish Sea.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.