DUP waiting for action on trading arrangement talks – Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

The DUP is awaiting action from the Government over long-running talks to address unionist concerns on post-Brexit trading arrangements, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has indicated.

Devolved government in Northern Ireland has been on hold for more than a year-and-a-half amid the DUP’s stand-off with ministers over new rules around the movement of goods to and from Great Britain.

The Government agreed the Windsor Framework with the EU earlier this year in an attempt to address concerns raised.

However, the DUP has been in talks with the Government since then and are refusing to re-enter the Stormont Assembly and Executive until remaining gaps are addressed.

Powersharing is unable to function in Northern Ireland without the support of the region’s largest unionist and nationalist parties.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris indicated that he believes the talks are in the “final phase”.

He said: “I believe we can get them over the line. I want to get them over the line. I quite believe that Jeffrey Donaldson wants to also do that. I think it’s fair to say that the Prime Minister is well engaged in this process as well.”

On Friday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party and the Government is “in the process of refining legislation” that protects Northern Ireland’s ability to trade within the UK.

He said the gaps that remain are around legislation.

“We are pressing the Government on the need for legislation that protects Northern Ireland’s ability to trade within the United Kingdom and its internal market,” he told Cool FM news.

“We made progress in terms of that legislation and we’re refining it so that it delivers what is needed to give Northern Ireland businesses the unfettered access that they require to our biggest market, which is Great Britain.

“Then, secondly, there are the practical arrangements, the measures that are designed to ensure that where goods are moving, particularly from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, that if those goods are staying in the internal market of the United Kingdom that they do what the Prime Minister said – they flow freely from one part of the UK to the other.”

He said the discussions will finish “as soon as the Government bring forward the final elements of the solution that is required”.

“That’s what we’re hoping for, that’s what we’re pressing for, that’s what we’re working to achieve,” he said.

“From the point of view of delivering what is required, it is the UK Government that can deliver the progress that is needed and we’re looking to them now to do that.

“We have been engaged with the Government now since earlier this year following the publication of the Windsor Framework. We are prepared to move at pace to get to a solution, but it has to be the right outcome.

“We have got to ensure that what is agreed with the Government restores Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom, that it respects our place in the union, that it protects our economic rights within that union.

“I think Government can deliver on the issues that are of concern to people and I hope the moment is arriving now when they will, and when we can get an agreement that enables us to restore the political institutions on the basis that unionists as well as nationalists can support them.”

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said: “We will not give a running commentary on our political meetings.

“The Secretary of State is doing everything he can to facilitate the restoration of the Executive as soon as possible.”