Northern Ireland news

Former Trimble adviser urges DUP to back Windsor Framework despite imperfections

The DUP have yet to support the Windsor Framework, an updated attempt to address unionist concerns on post-Brexit trading arrangements. (Liam McBurney/PA)
Allan Preston

A former adviser to David Trimble has said the DUP must back the Windsor Framework despite its imperfections.

Speaking on BBC Sunday Politics, Lord Bew said that reforming the Executive was the best chance to address their concerns.

The framework was an updated attempt by the British government to sell post-Brexit trading arrangements to unionists after the fall out over the Northern Ireland protocol.

It has so far failed to convince the DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and the Stormont Executive remains in limbo as a result.

Lord Bew argued that for the party it was “far better to be inside than outside”.

This included being able to test the effectiveness of the Stormont Brake, a mechanism that would allow the Assembly to challenge the application of any EU laws in Northern Ireland.

The DUP has set out seven tests that would need to be addressed if it was to accept the Windsor Framework.

Read more

They include having no new checks on goods being traded between Britain and Northern Ireland, equal treatment under the Act of Union and having no border in the Irish Sea.

Lord Bew

Lord Bew said that unionists felt aspects of the deal on elements like equal treatment were “deeply unfair,” but other parts of the Windsor Framework were not even addressed in the DUP’s seven tests.

“The seven tests are really quite specific. You have to remember the people negotiating this on behalf on the UK, and that includes Northern Ireland, thought the seven tests meant more or less what they said.

“Don’t forget what Sir Jeffrey said at the time, ‘we are basing this on what UK ministers have said is a reasonable outcome’. No UK ministers ever promised to get rid of EU law if you have dual access.

“What’s the point of the leadership? If you have set these seven tests, if you’ve stood by them, if you know that the UK government has strained to deliver them.”

He also said the Irish government was not helping Sir Jeffrey in his efforts to sell the deal to DUP voters.

Recalling the build up to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, he said the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had made a point of not making it harder for the UUP leader David Trimble to deliver his side of the deal.

“You simply cannot say this about Leo Varadkar,” he said.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Mr Varadkar recently said he believed that Ireland was on the path to reunification within his lifetime, and would include a minority of roughly a million British people.

“One of Jeffrey’s real problems where I have a lot of sympathy with him is that things that have come from Dublin don’t help in the way they once did,” Lord Bew said.

“There isn’t the same pragmatism and realism.

“I was struck last week, after Leo’s latest intervention, the number of Conservatives and all shades of the party coming up to me saying ‘What’s he doing, why’s he making Jeffrey’s life so hard’?”

Northern Ireland news