DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson. Alamy Stock Photo
Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson says he cannot be certain Stormont will return by end of year

The DUP leader has repeated that “significant” gaps remain between the UK government and his party’s position.

DUP LEADER JEFFREY Donaldson has said that he cannot be certain that Stormont power-sharing will return by the end of the year.

Donaldson had said in recent weeks that the UK government was “moving closer” to addressing his party’s concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, and that the coming weeks would be “vital”.

The party leader said today there were still “significant” gaps that require a resolution before a proposal could be presented to his party.

When asked if Stormont would return by the end of the year, he said he could not be sure.

“I don’t know if that is going to be the case, I can’t be certain that we’re going to get an agreement,” he said.

“But we’ll keep working at this because we want to see Stormont restored, but it has to be on the basis that unionists as well as nationalists can support, and that means restoring Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and its internal market.”

The DUP withdrew from Northern Ireland’s assembly in February 2022 in protest against the internal UK trade barriers created by the post-Brexit protocol.

Power-sharing is unable to function in Northern Ireland without the participation of the largest unionist party.

The UK and EU agreed the Windsor Framework earlier this year in an attempt to address unionist concerns about the protocol, but the DUP has indicated it will not return to the Stormont Assembly until the UK government provides further assurances over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

“We’re working on those issues and I hope we can make further progress in the weeks ahead, but we don’t yet have an agreement,” Donaldson told Cool FM.

“We’re not yet at the point where I can take back a comprehensive proposal to my party.

“We were engaged with the Government today, and will continue to talk to them to close those gaps, there are significant issues that need to be resolved and we’ll keep working at it until we get solutions.”

Asked whether the UK government would have other priorities next year as it prepares for a general election, Donaldson said: “We don’t have a deadline and we’ll keep working at this until we get the right outcome, I hope that that can happen sooner rather than later.

“In terms of where those gaps are that I’ve spoken of, they deal with significant issues, we’ve made progress on those issues, and I welcome that, and we need just to press on to get to the final outcome.”

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