Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson: Deal is best DUP could deliver for people of Northern Ireland

The DUP leader said the agreement is not perfect, but he is ‘satisfied’ with the outcome.

DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson at the BBC in Belfast for an interview.
PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN
DUP Leader Jeffrey Donaldson at the BBC in Belfast for an interview. PICTURE: COLM LENAGHAN

A deal to reduce checks and paperwork on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is the best that could be delivered for the people of Northern Ireland, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The agreement between the UK Government, published on Wednesday, is expected to lead to the restoration of the devolved powersharing institutions at Stormont within days.



The deal will see the end of routine post-Brexit checks on goods shipped from Great Britain to final destinations in Northern Ireland.

It has persuaded the DUP to end its two-year boycott of the Stormont Assembly.

Sir Jeffrey told the BBC Talkback show that he is “absolutely convinced” the deal is the best one he could have secured.

The Stormont powersharing institutions are expected to return within days
Stormont The Stormont powersharing institutions are expected to return within days

He said: “Measured against our seven tests I am satisfied with the progress we have made.

“I am satisfied that in terms of our core objectives we have delivered for the people of Northern Ireland.

“Is it perfect? No, it isn’t.

“Have we delivered everything we would have wanted at this stage? No, we haven’t.”

Cartoon showing Michelle O'Neill and Jeffrey Donaldson driving a car. Jeffrey is in some discomfort as Ian Paisley, Nigel Poots and Sammy Wilson angrily watch him
Ian Knox cartoon 31/1/24

Sir Jeffrey said the agreement has removed the so-called Irish Sea trading border.

He said: “We believe that where goods are moving within the United Kingdom and its internal market, there shouldn’t be checks, there shouldn’t be customs declarations, because that is what a border means.

“There should not be a border within the UK internal market. These proposals remove that border.

“There will no longer be checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, except where, as happens across the UK, there is smuggling or criminality.”

He also said now all goods manufactured in Northern Ireland will be available for sale in the rest of the UK.

He said: “Businesses in Northern Ireland, if all they do is sell their goods to Great Britain then their goods will be fully acceptable in Great Britain.

“The Government has guaranteed that.

“There is a new goods guarantee built into these new arrangements that goods manufactured in Northern Ireland will always be available for sale in Great Britain.”

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill is poised to become first minister at Stormont
Stormont Assembly Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill is poised to become first minister at Stormont (Niall Carson/PA)

The DUP leader also said the automatic appliance of EU laws to Northern Ireland would end.

He said: “At the moment EU law automatically applies to Northern Ireland, whether it is a change to EU law or a new EU law.

“Under the (Northern Ireland) Protocol we had no say, the Assembly was not consulted on that, there was no democratic scrutiny in Northern Ireland of those laws, they just automatically applied. These new arrangements end that.

“Article 7A of the Withdrawal Act, which is a UK law, will be amended to end the automatic pipeline of EU law applying to Northern Ireland.

“What that means, we will have new democratic scrutiny mechanisms in the Assembly.

“The Assembly will be able to scrutinise any new laws that are coming forward. Assembly members will be able to say if they think that law is going to be harmful to Northern Ireland and our ability to trade, in other words divergence.

“The Assembly will be able to say no, that law should not apply in Northern Ireland and the UK Government has the right to veto that law on behalf of Northern Ireland.

“There is a new process that is being put in place that ends the dynamic alignment of EU law in Northern Ireland.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he is ‘comfortable’ with the deal
Stormont Assembly Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he is ‘comfortable’ with the deal (Niall Carson/PA)

Meanwhile, other Stormont parties have been meeting with Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin, in Belfast.

Speaking after her meeting, Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill, who is poised to become first minister when Stormont is restored, said the Assembly election held two years ago shows the “change” across the island’s political landscape.

She said: “I will work with whoever wants to come at it with an attitude of fair play, work with whoever wants to respect the Good Friday Agreement, and I will work with anybody who wants to deliver good public services.

“Regardless of who occupies the government in Britain, I would expect from them, whether it’s Labour or Tories, who unfortunately have failed on this on so many occasions, to respect the Good Friday Agreement.

“There is no doubt the Assembly election two years ago demonstrated the change that is happening right across our island and there is no doubt that there is a healthy conversation about constitutional change.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he had a “good meeting” with Ireland’s foreign affairs minister.

Mr Beattie said he told Mr Martin about how the Ulster Unionists have been “kept out” of discussions in relation to the agreement between the DUP and the British Government.

He added: “I think everybody is pretty comfortable with what the deal is.

“I don’t think anybody is concerned. I think everything that is going to happen is going to happen within the confines of what has already been agreed in regards to the Windsor Framework.”