Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Jeffrey Donaldson has claimed UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is on the same page in the DUP in her approach to securing changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Donaldson said Truss’ pledges must now be backed up with actions.
Donaldson indicated a pause on the DUP threat to collapse the power-sharing institutions at Stormont, which will remain in place pending the outcome of renewed negotiations between the UK and EU over the Irish Sea trading barriers. Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill will also hold talks with the UK Foreign Secretary.
Liz Truss has taken control of the UK negotiations on the protocol after David Frost resigned from the British Government last month. Truss is due to hold talks with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic later this week. Truss has insisted she will not sign up to any arrangement that involved checks on goods moving within the UK.
Checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland are central to the operation of the protocol in its current form. Truss further reiterated the British Government threat to trigger Article 16, suspending elements of the Protocol, if an agreement with the EU cannot be achieved.
Truss said: “When I see Maros Sefcovic this week for our first face-to-face talks, I’ll be putting forward our constructive proposals to resolve the situation. I am prepared to work night and day to negotiate a solution.”
“But let me be clear: I will not sign up to anything which sees the people of Northern Ireland unable to benefit from the same decisions on taxation and spending as the rest of the UK, or which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks.”
“My priority is to protect peace and stability in Northern Ireland. I want a negotiated solution, but if we have to use legitimate provisions including Article 16, I am willing to do that.”
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said Truss has been more specific about the actions the British Government would take to ensure Northern Ireland’s place within the UK market. Donaldson said: “Her focus on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is particularly welcome because that is obviously a key area for us.”
“We have argued consistently that whilst we recognise that there needs to be checks on goods moving into the European Union, there is no need for checks on goods staying within the UK internal market and moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that really has been at the heart of our opposition to the protocol.”
When the DUP leader was questioned on his threat to collapse the Northern Ireland executive if Truss does not deliver, he responded: “Of course, our possession with regard to continued participation in the Executive remains on the table, but what I want is a solution, that is where my focus is.”
“That’s why when others have been pushing for this or that, I’ve kept my nerve, I’ve kept my focus on what we need to achieve, which is an outcome on the protocol which removes the Irish sea border, takes away those checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
“And now we have a clear declaration by Liz Truss who is negotiating on behalf of the UK Government that she shares this objective so that represents progress, but we want to see that progress translated into action and if we get that action, then yes, of course, that will represent real progress. That’s what I want to see.”
Donaldson said Liz Truss has brought a renewed focus to the talks, adding that she recognises the need to make progress quickly. The DUP leader added that its approach has been working, claiming the DUP has focused the minds of both the UK and EU Governments in finding a solution. He said he welcomes what the Foreign Secretary has had to say, adding that he believes they are on the same page.
Donaldson continued: “Of course, there are other matters that need to be addressed but I believe that the way in which we brought a focus on to this issue has ensured that progress is made. Not as much as I would like, not as quickly as I would like, but in the end getting the solution is what really matters.”
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