It is welcome that the Secretary of State recognises there has been a lack of trust between unionism and the UK Government. Trust was eroded because for too long the concerns of unionists were ignored. Then, when problems were acknowledged there have been statements and promises in plentiful supply, but a lack of any meaningful action.
We have been very clear about what is required, and our Party unanimously agreed that not only did we need to see clarification, but change and re-working are necessary to deal with some of the fundamental problems that are at the heart of our current difficulties. Progress won’t be made by either soothing words from the Government or attempts to put pressure on the DUP. Problems with the Framework also won’t disappear with its implementation any more than progress was made through demands for “rigorous implementation” of the Protocol.
Implementing the Framework doesn’t deal in itself with the continued implications arising from the application of some EU laws in Northern Ireland and the risk of divergence, something demonstrated just this week through the debate on parcels in Parliament where even many Conservatives recognised the problems within those plans.
The Protocol too was voted through Parliament, but the underlying reality remains, that progress in Northern Ireland is only made with the support of unionists and nationalists. The UK Government first made a commitment to secure that three and a half years ago within NDNA to take steps to protect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market. There will be no solid basis for an Executive and Assembly until that happens and our constitutional arrangements are respected. We will continue to engage with the government but the ball in in their court to act.
We have witnessed previous attempts to put pressure on the DUP, including with talk of revenue raising. Further attempts will continue to fail, but also ignore the fact that any additional revenue raised would be negated if the funding model is not revised. There has been a growing acceptance of the facts, first raised by the DUP that the Barnett formula isn’t fit for purpose and it is not sustainable. We need to see the proper needs-based funding of public services in Northern Ireland, not sticking plasters.