'Mood music better' but DUP leader not prepared to compromise on Northern Ireland Protocol

The DUP leader is not prepared to compromise on Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom, he has told UTV.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson's comments come as negotiations surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol between the United Kingdom and European Union continue.

Speaking on View from Stormont, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: "The mood music seems better but what I'm interested in," the DUP leader said, "is outcome. It is action."

He continued: "It is ensuring that when people say they are committed to resolving this issue that the solution they bring forward really does deal with the core issues that have undermined political stability in Northern Ireland."

He added: "Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom must be respected and so that doesn't just mean dealing with the checks on the so-called Irish Sea border. It means dealing with the regulatory framework that means Northern Ireland is treated as a full and equal part of the United Kingdom."

"Politics is about compromise but I am not prepared to compromise on Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom because that is a core principle at the heart of the Belfast Agreement."

He continued: "That place has been undermined by the Northern Ireland Protocol. That needs to be addressed and resolved."

The DUP is blocking the functioning of the power-sharing institutions in Belfast as part of its protest against arrangements that have created barriers on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who has warned the prime minister that the DUP will not return to the Executive unless "decisive action" is taken to remove Brexit's Irish Sea border, said he and his party are "absolutely ready to fight" an election if necessary.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has signalled his intention to call an election in Northern Ireland on 28 October 2022.

Chris Heaton-Harris says he will have no choice but to order a return to the polls if an Executive is not formed by then.

Fresh from his party's conference, the DUP leader sat down with Paul Clark on View from Stormont. Credit: UTV

Sir Jeffrey told delegates at the DUP conference in Belfast on Saturday that changes must be secured to the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, either through renewed talks with the EU or by unilateral action at Westminster.

Political opponents have heavily criticised the DUP boycott, insisting it is hampering efforts to support families struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The UK Government has vowed to secure changes to the protocol, either by way of a negotiated compromise with the EU or through proposed domestic legislation that would empower ministers to scrap the arrangements without the approval of Brussels.

There are concerns the latter approach - the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill - could spark a trade war with the EU.

However, relations between the UK and EU appear to have improved since Liz Truss became Prime Minister and both London and Brussels have been talking up the potential for striking a deal through a fresh round of negotiations.

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