By Rebecca Black, PA
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is confident of securing “further progress” from the Government on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Devolved government at Stormont has been effectively collapsed for more than a year amid DUP protest action.
Sir Jeffrey said his party will not take part in the Assembly until they are satisfied their concerns around the impact of the Brexit deal are addressed.
The British government re-entered negotiations with the EU, securing the Windsor Framework in February. However, the DUP have said there are still outstanding issues.
Visiting Belfast City Hall on Saturday during the local government election count, Sir Jeffrey said he believes there will be further progress which will allow his party to return to Stormont.
“I believe that we are going to see developments in the next few weeks … let’s wait and see what happens,” he said.
“I believe the Prime Minister will recognise that the DUP has a strong mandate from the unionist community that politics in Northern Ireland works when we have a cross-community consensus … unionists won’t be pushed to the side, the DUP will continue to stand up for unionists, to stand up for Northern Ireland.
“I’m determined to get what we need from the Government to restore our place in the United Kingdom, our ability to trade with the rest of the UK and when we have that in UK law then of course we want to see Stormont back on stable foundations, operating on the basis of a cross-community consensus.”
Congratulations to Alan Lewis in Slieve Croob topping the poll and elected on first count. Also to Glyn Hanna & Henry Reilly in the Mournes and Jonny Jackson & Callum Bowsie in Rowallane. On course for five seats and our best ever performance in Newry, Mourne & Down. pic.twitter.com/QdYpRBRwa2
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) May 20, 2023
Sir Jeffrey said his party polled well in the elections, and they have secured a “mandate to go to the UK Government and secure the changes to the protocol they need to return to the Stormont Assembly”.
He said: “This election was always primarily about consolidating our vote and giving us the mandate we need to go to the Government and to get the outcomes that are required to see Stormont restored.
“What is that? That’s about ensuring that Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom is not only respected but protected in law, and that our place in the union is restored.”
Asked how likely the DUP is to secure any more from the Government, Sir Jeffrey said: “In our engagement with the Government, it is very clear that having Stormont restored is important to them, it’s important to us, and therefore I do believe that we are going to see further progress that will enable us to get what we need to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.
“Fundamentally Stormont functions best when there is a cross-community consensus, without unionist support we don’t have that so the DUP and unionism is critical in building that cross-community consensus and that’s why we want to see the Government acting so that we get that legislation, we get the protection that we need for our ability to trade within the UK to get Stormont back up and running on a stable foundation.”