DUP votes against Stormont brake – and Jeffrey Donaldson says party won’t restore Assembly

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson. Photo: PA

Claudia Savage

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has made clear that his party will not return to Stormont in its continuing protest against post-Brexit trade agreements.

The DUP began its boycott of Stormont last year over concerns that the Northern Ireland Protocol created a sea border in the UK internal market.

The Windsor Framework attempted to rectify these concerns by creating a red lane/green lane system to reduce checks, and the Stormont brake – a veto against new EU laws being implemented in Northern Ireland.

While Mr Donaldson admitted progress had been made, the party voted against the Stormont brake in the House of Commons yesterday, a vote that is being taken as an indication of support for the overall framework.

The vote passed by a massive margin of 486, despite the opposition of the DUP and some Eurosceptic Tory MPs.

“I have consistently indicated that fundamental problems remain notwithstanding progress made,” Mr Donaldson tweeted.

“Consequently, there is not a sustainable basis at this stage to enable us to restore Stormont.

“We will vote against the proposal today & continue to engage with the government to secure clarification, reworking & change.”

Speaking in the Commons, he added that the DUP would “work intensively to solve these issues... in the knowledge that what has already been achieved has been because we were not prepared to accept the undermining of Northern Ireland’s place within the union of the United Kingdom”.

The UK government has said the framework will not be renegotiated with the EU, and UK foreign secretary James Cleverly is set to formally adopt the Windsor Framework at a meeting of the joint committee on the Withdrawal Agreement in London tomorrow.

Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill called for the DUP to end the blockade of Stormont and return to devolved government.

“The public have been punished for long enough by this futile and shameful DUP blockade,” she said.

Ms O’Neill also called on other parties to work to get the Assembly functioning again to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the Windsor Framework.

“The onus is on the British and Irish governments and all parties – not least the DUP – to now get Stormont moving,” Ms O’Neill said.

“It’s time to move forward. We need to see the Assembly and executive working now to address the problems in our health service and deliver for business, for workers and families.

“We now have unprecedented economic opportunities to strengthen our economy and create more and better jobs.

“Further blocking the formation of an executive will only deepen the chaos caused by Brexit and discourage international investors.”

The Alliance Party voted for the Stormont brake yesterday.

The SDLP and UUP have both expressed concern with elements of the framework but urged restoration of the Assembly.