February 24, 2024

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A DUP deal aimed at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland has been published

A DUP deal aimed at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland has been published

  • Written by John Campbell
  • BBC News NI Economics and Business Editor

Video explanation,

The Northern Ireland Secretary sets out his four “key elements” in a package of measures to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

The Democratic Unionist Party has been boycotting the power-sharing government in Stormont for two years in protest against trade rules after Britain's exit from the European Union.

The deal will reduce checks and paperwork on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The changes apply to UK goods located in Northern Ireland, meaning no routine checks will be carried out on those goods.

These changes include the maximum flexibility permitted under a previous agreement between the EU and the UK which it is understood would be acceptable to the EU.

On Tuesday, the combined UK and EU reached an agreement to make changes to that deal to allow NI to benefit from UK free trade agreements.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the result was the “right deal for Northern Ireland and the union”.

He added that it is time for politicians to “come together and work together.”

“I am confident that we will have the conditions necessary to see Stormont up and running quickly,” he said.

So now we have the fine print, in black and white – or some might say red, white and blue is more appropriate given the title of the document, “Protecting the Union”.

But beyond the practicalities, it is the political consequences that loom on the horizon.

The government is now embarking on a hard sell for the plan alongside the DUP leader, after those long months of negotiations.

She desperately wants this to work, not just so the authorities can return, but so the Sunak administration can see it as a win.

Its supporters and opponents have already begun to appear on our airwaves, and that noise will only get louder — on both sides — in the coming hours.

The Government will also introduce two pieces of legislation to ensure that Northern Irish goods can be sold in Great Britain in all circumstances and to confirm Northern Ireland's status in the UK.

Comment on the photo,

DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson was giving an interview to the BBC on Wednesday as details of the deal emerged

During an appearance on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback program on Wednesday, DUP leader Sir Geoffrey Donaldson was asked whether the deal would remove a trade border in the Irish Sea, and he claimed it would.

“For goods coming from the UK, our aim was to remove the Irish Sea border and that is what we achieved,” he said.

“We are no longer in a position where if you bring goods for sale into Northern Ireland, you need a customs declaration.”

He added that for people bringing goods into Northern Ireland to sell in Northern Ireland or for their own consumption, “no customs declaration will be required, and no physical checks (on those goods) at Northern Irish ports”.

The DUP leader said this “removes boundaries in the UK's internal market”.

Image source, Niall Carson of Pennsylvania

Comment on the photo,

Sinn Féin is the largest party in NI after the recent Assembly elections and will nominate Michelle O'Neill for First Minister

The legislation is expected to pass quickly through Parliament on Thursday.

'fake promises'

Sir Geoffrey praised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, saying he “did what others did not”.

The DUP leader compared the current occupant of No. 10 to one of his predecessors, Boris Johnson, saying that while Johnson “promised us a lot of things, he didn't deliver.”

Sir Geoffrey said the deal was not perfect and did not achieve everything the DUP wanted, explaining that there was more work to be done on the “important issue” of veterinary medicines.

Video explanation,

Westminster leaders have welcomed talks to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister praised the “important steps” taken by the Democratic Unionist Party to approve the deal.

Opening Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Sunak thanked the DUP for its efforts and said other parties had been patient over the past two years.

He said there was now the prospect of power-sharing being back up and running, “to strengthen our union and give people the accountable local government they need.”

The Prime Minister added that this would provide a “brighter future for Northern Ireland”.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer also described it as a “significant moment” and that all parties need to work together to begin the transfer of power.

“Hope and optimism”

The main Stormont parties met Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Micheal Martin in Belfast on Wednesday.

Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O'Neill said there was “some hope and optimism” about the return of the Northern Ireland Executive.

As the party that won the most seats in the last assembly election in 2022, Sinn Féin has the right to take over as First Minister.

This would make Sinn Féin's Ms O'Neill the first person from a nationalist background to become Northern Ireland's first minister.

As the second largest party, the Democratic Unionist Party has the right to nominate a deputy Prime Minister.

The two roles have always shared exactly the same powers and responsibilities, and are equal in status in all but name.

Asked if she was ready to be First Minister of Northern Ireland, O'Neill said: “I am fully prepared for the task of leading that executive to work with all executive parties and deliver what matters to the people.”

Doug Beattie, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, said his party had a “good meeting” with Martin, but stressed they were disturbed by how “far removed they were from the details” of the new deal.

In the House of Commons, Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic Labor Party (SDLP), asked Mr Heaton-Harris whether he would convene a process with all political parties in the Irish government to consider how the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement should be reformed “to ensure that no party can Shoot them down again.”

Mr Heaton-Harris said that when it comes to the issue of reform in Northern Ireland “this is a conversation that must start within Stormont and by the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives”.

Meanwhile, Alliance MP Stephen Farry asked the NI Secretary about the £3.3bn financial package presented before Christmas and acknowledged “there needs to be a fuller discussion on reviewing NI’s financial floor”.

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