Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson says significant gaps remain in DUP and British government's Windsor protocol talks

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks to the media after a breakfast with US investors at the Titanic Centre, Belfast (David Young/PA)
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks to the media after a breakfast with US investors at the Titanic Centre, Belfast (David Young/PA) DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks to the media after a breakfast with US investors at the Titanic Centre, Belfast (David Young/PA)

“Significant gaps” remain between the British government and the DUP in talks over post-Brexit trading arrangements, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP leader would not predict any timeframe for a conclusion to negotiations which could lead to a return of the Stormont powersharing institutions, but said that progress was being made.

The DUP has been blocking powersharing for more than a year in protest at the internal UK trade barriers created by Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

The party has been involved in negotiations with the Government about the Windsor Framework, which reformed the protocol and is seeking further assurances, by way of legislation, over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.

Stormont
Stormont The DUP has been blocking powersharing at Stormont for more than a year (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sir Jeffrey joined other Northern Ireland party leaders in Belfast for a meeting with a delegation of US business leaders led by special envoy Joe Kennedy.

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The DUP leader said: “We meet regularly as party leaders and we have been doing that over the past number of months.

“There is a lot of co-operation, a lot of talking between the parties, that has been going on for weeks in anticipation that at some stage, hopefully soon, we may be in a position to see a government formed.

“But we are not there yet.

“There are still gaps to be closed, there are still issues that need to be resolved in our dialogue with the Government, but we are working each and every week to resolve those issues.”

“I think that we have made progress, but there are still significant gaps in terms of what we need to ensure that the new arrangements which replace the Northern Ireland Protocol work for Northern Ireland, that they enable us to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom in a way where those barriers created by the protocol have been removed in terms of the movement of goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, or Great Britain to Northern Ireland.”

The DUP leader said he would not predict a timeframe for a potential deal but hoped it could happen “sooner rather than later”.

He added: “Every process of dialogue reaches a moment where you have taken the talking as far as you can and decisions are needed.

“I don’t think we are in that place yet, I think there is still some room to move, I think there is still a distance to travel to get the outcome that we need, we are moving in the right direction.

“I want to get this right and we will keep working at it until we have made the progress we need to make.”

The DUP leader said there was no pressure placed upon him from US business leaders for a return of Stormont.

He said: “They are very clear that the politics of Northern Ireland is for the politicians of Northern Ireland.

“They are looking for the opportunities here in terms of business, investment and growing our economy and creating jobs.

“We very much welcome their interest and I think it is a sign that Northern Ireland is still open for business, we are still creating jobs, we have had lots of jobs announcements in recent months, we have had an announcements of major investments in Northern Ireland and that is something we will continue to work with the business community to deliver.”