Sir Jeffrey Donaldson Affirms the Vital Role of Stormont Powersharing

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson Emphasizes Essential Role of Stormont Powersharing

At the DUP conference, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson underscored the critical significance of the Stormont powersharing institutions in building and advocating for Northern Ireland’s continued place within the Union.

He also noted that the time is approaching when his party must make a decision about the ongoing negotiations with the government in the context of resolving the trade border issues arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Negotiations and Determination

While addressing delegates in Belfast, Sir Jeffrey celebrated the DUP’s track record of being proactive and taking the lead.

However, he also cautioned that if the ongoing discussions fail to result in a deal that effectively addresses trading concerns, he is not hesitant to reject it.

Challenges Faced by the DUP

The DUP had previously withdrawn their first minister, Paul Givan, from the Stormont executive in February 2022 in protest against the internal UK trade barriers established by the post-Brexit protocol.

The absence of the largest unionist party, which is essential for the functioning of powersharing, has posed challenges.

The Windsor Framework and Its Limitations

The UK and EU reached an agreement earlier this year called the Windsor Framework to address unionist concerns related to the protocol.

However, the DUP has made it clear that they will not return to the Stormont Assembly unless the government provides additional assurances regarding Northern Ireland’s position in the UK internal market.

One aspect of the framework, the green/red lane system for the movement of goods, became operational at Northern Ireland ports recently.

The Ongoing Negotiations

The backdrop of the DUP conference is marked by continued negotiations between the DUP and the government.

Sir Jeffrey acknowledged the high level of scrutiny their conference is under, with London, other Northern Ireland political parties, and even those in Dublin paying close attention.

Addressing the Northern Ireland Protocol

Sir Jeffrey emphasized that the government must address the harm caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

While acknowledging some progress made with the Windsor Framework, he stressed that it did not adequately tackle the core issues related to Brexit.

The DUP has maintained its position on the protocol, focusing on their objectives and aims to make further progress.

The DUP’s Role in Seeking Changes

Sir Jeffrey stated that the DUP has played a leading role in securing changes to the protocol. He also recognized the need for a pragmatic approach to handling customs arrangements for goods entering the EU from Northern Ireland.

He reiterated the importance of not creating a hard customs border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, as it could disrupt the delicate balances set by the Belfast Agreement.

Future of Negotiations

Sir Jeffrey conveyed optimism about the progress being made in discussions with the UK Government concerning post-Brexit trading arrangements. He expressed hope that remaining concerns can be promptly addressed.

However, he also highlighted the need to evaluate whether the outcomes align with the DUP’s objectives and manifesto commitments.

Determination and Decision-Making

The DUP’s history of principled decision-making was emphasized by Sir Jeffrey. He affirmed the party’s readiness to make tough decisions, saying yes and leading from the front when it aligns with their principles.

However, he made it clear that they would not hesitate to say no if the offer fails to adequately address their fundamental concerns and the long-term interests of their place in the Union.

A Positive Future for Northern Ireland

In closing, Sir Jeffrey stressed the importance of making a positive case for the Union.

He highlighted the need for local institutions that effectively deliver for all of Northern Ireland’s people and dispelled the notion that Northern Ireland is a failed political entity.

He called for collective dedication to ensuring that decisions are made to improve the lives of the people they represent when the system of government returns.

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