No more negotiation, says Sunak as DUP digs in its heels over Windsor Brexit deal

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks to the media. Photo: Getty Images

David Young, Gavin Gordon, Rebecca Black and Sam Blewett

The British government has insisted it has no plans to renegotiate the Windsor Framework Brexit deal despite the DUP vowing to vote against it in Parliament.

Jeffrey Donaldson said DUP officers met yesterday morning and unanimously agreed to vote against the first aspect of the framework to be considered by Parliament, the Stormont brake which would allow a minority of MLAs at Stormont to formally flag concerns about the imposition of new EU laws in the North. ​

While the vote only concerns one aspect of the accord, the Government itself has suggested the vote will be indicative of support for the overall agreement.

The DUP is currently blocking devolution at Stormont in protest at the terms of the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

The protocol was designed to prevent a hardening of the land border on the island of Ireland and moved regulatory and customs checks to the Irish Sea, creating economic barriers on the movement of goods between Great Britain and the North.​

The UK and EU agreed the framework as a way to cut the red tape.

While the DUP says the Windsor Framework has gone some way to address its concerns about the protocol, it says some significant problems remain.

Downing Street said ministers stood ready to have further consultations with the DUP ahead of tomorrow’s Commons vote on the Windsor Framework.

Meanwhile, the EU’s Maros Sefcovic will meet with Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in London on Friday to formally adopt the Windsor pact at a meeting of the joint committee on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “We remain confident that this is the best deal for Northern Ireland.

“Of course we wanted to give the DUP and other parties as much time as possible to consider the deal and come to a view.”

Clearly there is still some way to go, there is a lot more work to be done

Announcing the party’s intention ahead of tomorrow’s vote, Mr Donaldson said: “Whilst representing real progress, the brake does not deal with the fundamental issue which is the imposition of EU law by the protocol.”

He did not rule out ultimately backing the Windsor Framework but insisted the UK government would have to resolve the outstanding issues his party has.

“Clearly there is still some way to go, there is a lot more work to be done, we’re engaged with the government on that, and we will make our judgments whenever we see the final picture of all of this,” he said.

The DUP leader suggested those changes could be secured by way of domestic legislation at Westminster, rather than a renegotiation with Brussels.

London, Brussels and Washington are keen for the Stormont institutions to be restored ahead of next month’s landmark 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

President Joe Biden is among those set to visit the North next month.

Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has said the Windsor Framework negotiations were done, and the onus was now on getting devolution restored.

“The deal is done & huge economic opportunities are before us,” she tweeted.

“The Brexit Joint Committee meets March 24 to adopt the deal into EU law & we move onto implementation stage.

“The onus is on the British & Irish Governments & all parties – not least the DUP to now get Stormont moving.”