Leading article

Editorial: No going back on framework deal

Confirmation that border inspection posts are being built at Northern Ireland ports provides further evidence, were it needed, of the commitment of both London and Brussels to the Windsor Framework deal.

Construction was ordered by Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Thérèse Coffey and is part of the outworking of revised protocol arrangements agreed between the UK government and EU in February.

It is clear that both sides went to painstaking lengths during those negotiations to address unionist concerns, as well as a range of practical issues that had arisen in the three years since the disastrous decision to exit the European Union was formalised.

The hope was that the DUP would in turn accept its 'wins' from the deal as well as the reality that special arrangements are needed recognising Northern Ireland's unique position in a post-Brexit trading environment.

Instead, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has continued his hugely damaging boycott of the devolved institutions, closing his ears to repeated appeals from voices across politics, business and civic society.

Frustratingly, it remains unclear exactly what changes the party wants to see, with a report commissioned from an eight-person panel completed more than two months ago but its content yet to be revealed.

In the meantime, civil servants have been left with responsibility for implementing brutal cuts under a budget set in London, with the potential for irreparable damage to be caused to some public services.

The sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) facilities being built at Belfast, Larne, Warrenpoint and Foyle ports are required to protect the integrity of the EU single market that has been agreed extends to the Irish Sea.

Work has also begun on what officials have termed "an additional, temporary, product inspection facility" at Belfast Port, which is expected to be operational by the autumn.

Earlier this week, the EU adopted new rules aimed at simplifying trade between Britain and the north.

The framework deal has been emphatically endorsed at Westminster, a reality acknowledge by protocol critic and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib this week.

Its implementation should not be regarded as a constitutional threat, but as a gateway to game-changing opportunities that dual access to UK and EU markets offers a struggling regional economy.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday expressed his hope that following the council election, devolved government can be restored by September. Talks between the parties and governments to ensure that deadline is met should begin immediately.

Leading article