Northern Ireland

DUP has not come this far to have not made gains, says Edwin Poots

South Belfast MLA Edwin Poots denounced those in the wider unionist movement for criticising a deal with the British government which has not concluded.

Edwin Poots said the DUP was working constructively
Edwin Poots Edwin Poots said the DUP was working constructively (Liam McBurney/PA)

The DUP has not come this far not to have achieved gains, one of the party’s MLAs has said.

Edwin Poots was commenting as speculation intensifies that the DUP is inching closer to a deal with the UK Government over post-Brexit trading arrangements, which could see them return to devolved government.

The DUP has stayed out of the institutions at Stormont for almost two years to force the British government to act on unionist concerns over the impact of the Windsor Framework on the union.

The party has been criticised for its stance both by those frustrated at the effective collapsing of Stormont, and those within the wider unionist movement, claiming it has not achieved enough to protect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says he has faced threats
Stormont Assembly DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says he has faced threats (Liam McBurney/PA)

Earlier this week DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he has faced threats, and also urged others against opposing a deal that has yet to be agreed.

Mr Poots told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show on Friday that his party has been working “extremely hard” to resolve the impasse.

“That piece of work continues,” he added.

He declined to comment on what happened at a meeting of the party officers last Friday, amid speculation there had been a planned vote on its deal with the Government, saying he respects the press statements that are put out.

The party said that evening that it was continuing to engage with the British government, and would not “give a running commentary on our position”.

“There is a course of work that has been done thus far and that’s a course of work that is ongoing and we are determined to bring that to a conclusion,” Mr Poots said.

“Some people are wondering about this but you will just have to wait and see what the party puts out in terms of its press releases on what happened at various meetings.

“The DUP is working constructively to try to find solutions to all of this.”

Mr Poots also said no internal party meeting was planned to take place on Friday, or “the next couple of days”.

“There is a whole series of meetings which I am sure will take place over the course of the next week, that’s how we operate, we have party officer meetings every two weeks, we have Assembly group meetings on a regular basis, we have Westminster meetings on a regular basis as well,” he said.

He also criticised some other unionists who have accused the DUP of being “traitors”.

“Why would we have done what we’ve done for the last two years and go back with nothing, and people should reflect on that,” he said.

Meanwhile he described reporting that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak might offer to voluntarily limit divergence from EU rules in the future, to limit the impact of an Irish Sea trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, as just “one element” of a prospective deal.

“That would be a win but on its own it wouldn’t be any use, if people thought that is what was on offer, that wouldn’t be acceptable on its own,” he said.

“It would be one element of progress that in itself wouldn’t carry anything.”