Statement by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Speaking on Monday night, DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said,

"In February 2022 the DUP withdrew the then First Minister as a consequence of the imposition of the Northern Ireland Protocol which did not have support from the elected representatives of Unionism in Northern Ireland. Prior to our decision we warned that a failure to deal with the Protocol, its imposition without consent and its disruptive impact on the delicate political balance was leading to an unsustainable position.

We have campaigned to seek substantial, meaningful and fundamental changes to the arrangements first agreed by the UK Government in 2020. Having taken a strong and principled stand, endorsed in May 2022 by a substantial mandate, we were able to bring the UK Government and the European Commission back to the negotiating table and whilst significant progress was made at the time of the Windsor Framework, we judged that more work was required if we were to reach a point of securing arrangements that unionists as well as nationalists could support. Throughout much of this period other parties in Northern Ireland were calling for rigorous implementation of the Protocol.

In addition to undoing the damage of the Protocol on the Union and restoring Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom internal market we have worked with the UK Government in our recent negotiations to ensure that going forward Northern Ireland has the best possible chance to tackle its short-term challenges and build longer-term prosperity within the Union.

Our goal has been to secure the conditions that allow for the return of devolved government on a sustainable basis and where it can make a real and meaningful improvement in the lives of all the people of this part of the United Kingdom.

The Officers, Assembly Group, Parliamentary Group and the Central Executive of the Democratic Unionist Party have now been briefed and considered all aspects of our negotiations between the UK Government and the DUP.

The Party has concluded that subject to the binding commitments between the Democratic Unionist Party and the UK Government being fully and faithfully delivered as agreed, including the tabling and passing of new legislative measures in Parliament, and final agreement on a timetable, the package of measures in totality does provide a basis for our party to nominate members to the Northern Ireland Executive thus seeing the restoration of the locally elected institutions.

We recognise that significant further advances have been achieved through these negotiations and the details of the new package of measures will be published by the UK Government in due course.

This package I believe safeguards Northern Ireland’s place in the Union and will restore our place within the UK Internal Market. It will remove checks for goods moving within the UK, and remaining in Northern Ireland, and will end Northern Ireland automatically following future EU laws.

There will be legislation to provide new legal and practical protections for the Acts of Union and which guarantees unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the rest of the United Kingdom.

In the coming days, in addition to the publication of the details of the new package of proposals, the UK Government will be required to deliver on the legislative commitments they have made to us.

I am pleased to indicate that we have also secured a basis for cross-party support at Westminster for the measures negotiated. Therefore, regardless of who forms the next UK Government these agreed measures will be taken forward beyond the forthcoming General Election.

Throughout this process we have made clear we will only be able to move after the Government faithfully delivers on the implementation of its legal and other commitments. The package of measures will require a number of significant actions to be taken and we look forward with confidence to their ongoing implementation according to an agreed timeline. Upon that basis the Democratic Unionist Party would support the calling of a meeting of the Northern Ireland Assembly to elect a Speaker and the nomination of Ministers.

In advance of the UK Government delivering on its commitments as part of the package of measures agreed with us, and the passing of new legislation through the House of Commons, there is important preparatory work to be carried out so that local ministers when nominated can hit the ground running.

I believe that with the faithful delivery of this package of measures, hard work and dedication we will be able to look back on this moment as the defining time when Northern Ireland’s place within the Union was safeguarded and our place within the United Kingdom internal market was restored.

Over the coming period we will work, alongside others, to build a thriving Northern Ireland, firmly within the Union, for this and succeeding generations.

When our grandchildren look back on this period, they will be able to say we had a just cause, we held the line, we restored the balance and we secured a positive future for Northern Ireland and its integral place in the Union.”

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