DUP set for crunch meeting on possible Stormont deal

The DUP is set for a crunch meeting tonight as its party leader briefs senior members on proposals aimed at ending Stormont’s power-sharing impasse.

The DUP has been using a veto power to blockade Stormont ‘s devolved institutions for two years in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements that have created trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The party has been involved in protracted talks with the British government aimed at securing concessions on the arrangements that would address its concerns around trade and sovereignty.

It appears the DUP is approaching the moment to make a final call on the British government’s proposed measures.

On Friday, members of the DUP’s 130-strong party executive were invited to a short notice meeting at 7pm this evening.

The invitation said the gathering, at a yet undisclosed location in Northern Ireland, would see party leader Jeffrey Donaldson provide a “detailed update on the current political situation”.

If Mr Donaldson presses for an acceptance of the proposals and a Stormont return, he is expected to face stiff opposition from some unionists, both inside and outside his party.

They believe the boycott should only end once all the economic barriers created by Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, and the subsequent Windsor Framework, are removed.

While the mooted deal being offered by the British government will seek to reduce red tape associated with arrangements, and offer additional measures aimed at strengthening Britain-Northern Ireland ties, they will not result in the axing of the EU and UK’s jointly agreed protocol and framework.

Last week, in an impassioned speech at Westminster, Mr Donaldson said he had received threats amid the speculation over an impending deal. The DUP has reported the incidents to the police.

Read more: Can Donaldson bring the DUP back into power-sharing?

Yesterday, Sinn Fein called on the DUP to step off the “endless merry-go-round” of its Stormont boycott and return to power-sharing.

Pearse Doherty said the time had come for the DUP to make a decision.

“We’ve been here so many times, there’s been so many false dawns when it comes to the DUP, and the DUP really need to end this blockade of this Assembly and accept the fact that people in the Assembly election (in May 2022) voted for change and the dynamics are changing and have changed in the north,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

“We have to get off this endless merry-go-round in relation to will they, won’t they?”

He added: “They should absolutely jump but the British government needs to stop facilitating them, they’ve told us that the negotiations are over.

“And they (the DUP) need to get back into the Assembly. There’s nothing more to talk about.”

On Friday, senior DUP MLA and former party leader Edwin Poots criticised some other unionists who have accused his party of being “traitors”.

He suggested his party had extracted meaningful concessions from the British government.

“Why would we have done what we’ve done for the last two years and go back with nothing, and people should reflect on that,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

On Saturday, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party Jim Allister, one of those calling for the DUP to maintain its blockade, urged opponents of the post-Brexit trading arrangements to stand firm.

“Unionism is facing a defining moment,” he said. “A moment of decision that will set Northern Ireland’s course for years to come.

“Either NI will embark on transition out of the UK by unionists implementing the template designed for that purpose, the Protocol, or unionism will hold the line and refuse to put its hand to its own destruction.

“This is a decision so momentous as to rise above questions of party loyalty.”

He added: “If the worst happens and the DUP gives up the fight, then all who see the issues need to stand together.”

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