By Rebecca Black, PA
The DUP is awaiting action from the UK government on protracted negotiations to address unionist concerns about post-Brexit trade arrangements.
Devolved government in Northern Ireland has been on hold for more than a year and a half amid the DUP’s stand-off with ministers over new rules surrounding the movement of goods to and from the UK.
The UK government agreed the Windsor Framework with the EU earlier this year in an attempt to address the concerns raised.
However, the DUP has been in talks with the government since then and is refusing to re-enter the Stormont assembly and the executive until the remaining gaps are resolved.
Powersharing is unable to function in Northern Ireland without the support of the region’s main unionist and nationalist parties.
On Friday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party and the UK government are “in the process of refining the legislation” that protects Northern Ireland’s ability to trade within the UK.
He said the remaining gaps are around legislation.
“We are pressing the government on the need for legislation that protects Northern Ireland’s ability to trade within the UK and its single market,” he told Cool FM news.
“We made progress on that legislation and we are refining it so that it delivers what is needed to give Northern Irish businesses the unfettered access they need to our biggest market, which is the UK.
“Then, secondly, there are the practical arrangements, the measures designed to ensure that where goods are moved, particularly from the UK to Northern Ireland, that if those goods remain in the single market in the UK, they do what the Prime Minister said – they flow freely from one part of the UK to the other.”
He said the discussions will end “as soon as the government presents the final elements of the necessary solution”.
“That’s what we’re hoping for, that’s what we’re pushing for, that’s what we’re working to achieve,” he said.
“From the point of view of delivering what is required, it is the UK Government that can deliver the progress that is needed and we look to them now to do that.
“We have been engaged with the government now since earlier this year following the publication of the Windsor Framework. We are prepared to move at pace to find a solution, but it has to be the right outcome.
“We need to ensure that what is agreed with the government restores Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the UK, that it respects our place in the union, that it protects our economic rights within that union.
“I believe that the government can deliver on the issues that concern people and I hope that the moment will come now where they want and where we can get an agreement that will enable us to restore the political institutions on the basis that trade unionists can also support them as nationalists.”