DUP has not come to terms with Brexit deal support, says Heaton-Harris

DUP has not come to terms with Brexit deal support, says Heaton-Harris

By Iain McDowellBBC News NI23 Mar 2023, 13:11 GMT

Updated 26 minutes ago

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Chris Heaton-Harris says there will be no renegotiation of the new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has “still not come to terms with the importance” of a vote in support of the new Brexit deal, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said.

His comments come a day after MPs voted 515 to 29 to back the Windsor Framework deal agreed by Rishi Sunak.

The DUP voted against, saying the UK government needed to make changes to it.

Speaking on Thursday, Heaton-Harris said the agreement was “done” and would soon become international law.

“There is no renegotiation of that agreement,” he said.

“We will now do our best to make this deal work – it’s us and the European Union.”

The joint UK-EU body overseeing Brexit will meet on Friday to ratify the legal changes brought in by the Windsor Framework.

But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was “not a quitter” and would not give up on his campaign for an improved deal.

He said the vote in Parliament on Wednesday did not represent the sentiments of Northern Ireland unionists.

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The Windsor frame has “an element of sticking plaster” to it, says Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

The DUP has blocked the functioning of the power-sharing government at Stormont for more than a year in protest at the trade rules that were put in place for Northern Ireland in the original Brexit deal agreed by Boris Johnson.

The aim of the Windsor Framework was to change those rules and reduce controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

But the DUP has said the new deal struck between the UK prime minister and the EU is not enough for her to agree to reinstate her ministers to Stormont.

Speaking after meeting Heaton-Harris at Hillsborough Castle, Sir Jeffrey said he would work with the government to change the deal.

“I’m not a quitter – I’ve never given up on the quest to achieve what we need to achieve,” he said.

“There is an element of sticking plaster in the Windsor Framework and it won’t work.

“It will not deliver the long-term stability and prosperity that Northern Ireland needs.”

Heaton-Harris met the five main Stormont parties in Hillsborough to discuss the new Brexit deal as well as Northern Ireland’s public finances, which he said were “definitely not in a good state”.

He said he would have to set Northern Ireland’s budget for next year within the next few weeks if the executive did not act quickly.

“There will be some tough decisions,” he said.

How have other parties reacted?

Sinn Féin deputy president Michelle O’Neill said the DUP needed to “stop the boycott” of Stormont so executive ministers could take control of the budget.

Ministers had to be in post to make the case to the Treasury for extra funding for Northern Ireland, Ms O’Neill added.

“This budget is about to cause catastrophic damage to public services,” she said.

“So the DUP needs to get around the table with the rest of us, make politics work.”

Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry said Northern Ireland was “bleeding at the moment”, with problems piling up and public services in real crisis.

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Michelle O’Neill – pictured with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald – says the DUP must “stop their boycott” of Stormont.

He said his party had asked the UK government to consider offering a financial package and it appeared “the door is open for that”.

“This will require parties in Northern Ireland to work together and make a very compelling case… to the Treasury,” he said.

“So it reinforces the drive in the DUP to join with the rest of us to ensure we get proper government here.”

Ulster unionist assembly member Robbie Butler said the level of budget cuts “at that cliff edge at the moment is actually quite alarming”.

He urged the DUP to acknowledge the “difficulties” with the Windsor Framework and “put the people of Northern Ireland first”.

Social Democrat and Labor leader Colum Eastwood said the DUP had to accept it could not get everything it wanted from the new Brexit deal.

“We have a great opportunity with this [deal] to trade in both [UK and EU] unencumbered markets,” said Foyle MP.

“People in Britain would give anything to have that opportunity.”

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