DUP talks with government ‘have not concluded’ – Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

The DUP leader said his party will be meeting the government later this week, adding that gaps remain.

Rebecca Black
Monday 06 November 2023 12:44 GMT
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party is to meet the government later this week (Liam McBurney/PA)
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party is to meet the government later this week (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

Talks between the DUP and the government to create the conditions for the restoration of the Stormont Assembly have not concluded, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The DUP leader was speaking after Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin suggested the negotiations had “more or less come to a conclusion”.

Sir Jeffrey insisted gaps remain, adding his party is set to meet the government later this week.

“The talks have not come to a conclusion, no one in government has said that to me, and in fact we’re hoping to meet with the government later this week again. Those talks continue,” he said.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith said “significant work is ongoing to address the concerns of unionism”, and urged patience.

“Getting Stormont up and running is vital for everyone across NI,” he posted on X, previously known as Twitter.

“Significant work is ongoing to address the concerns of unionism and deal with the broader issues facing NI and the ultimate desire by all parties to serve.

“This work deserves our support and patience, however frustrating.”

Sir Jeffrey also said he noted findings of a LucidTalk opinion poll published in the Belfast Telegraph on Monday as indicating support for his party “continues to increase”.

The poll suggests that while Sinn Fein remain in the lead with 31% of support, the DUP have narrowed the gap to 28%, up two points from a previous poll in August.

In terms of the other parties, the poll found that Alliance is up one point to 16%, the UUP is on 8%, down two points, the SDLP remains on 6%, and the TUV is down one point to 4%.

The DUP withdrew from the Stormont institutions last year in protest against the internal UK trade barriers created by the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

Powersharing is unable to function in Northern Ireland without the support of the region’s largest unionist and nationalist parties.

The UK and EU agreed the Windsor Framework earlier this year in an attempt to address unionist concerns about the protocol, but the DUP has indicated it will not return to Stormont until the London government provides further assurances over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

Last week DUP leader Sir Jeffrey said he could not be certain that powersharing will return by the end of the year.

The LucidTalk poll also found that almost two thirds of unionists feel strongly against Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, believing that the DUP should not return to Stormont until it is scrapped.

The poll is based on 3,046 people took part in an online poll conducted from October 27 to 30, and was scientifically weighted to reflect the region’s population.

On Monday, Sir Jeffrey said his party are “working hard” on the gaps to secure “an agreement that unionists as well as nationalists can support”, and a “sustainable basis for the restoration of cross-community consensus, which is critical to powersharing”.

“I don’t determine my political strategy based on polls, I am focused on what I need to do which is to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and its internal market, but I note the trend in these polls that support for the DUP continues to increase,” he told the BBC.

“I think that demonstrates that most unionists recognise what we’re trying to achieve here and are supportive of it, and I think that strengthens our hand in the negotiations.

“As the seven tests say, we need to see Northern Ireland’s economic rights under the Act of Union respected and protected in law and our ability to trade with the rest of the UK restored, and that’s what we’re working towards and we made real progress but there are still gaps that need to be closed.”

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