DUP leader says party 'ready to fight' election after meeting with the Secretary of State

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told reporters there was "still some way to go" in solving the problems over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Credit: UTV

The leader of the DUP said the party is "ready to fight" in an election after a meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at Westminster.

The deadline for forming a ministerial executive is looming, but Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told reporters there was "still some way to go" in solving the problems over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said: "I think the Secretary of State is of a mind to call an election, that is a matter for the Government, frankly I don't think it helps us to get any quicker towards the solution that we need or to get the political institutions back up and running and fully functioning again.

"We need to clear away the debris of the protocol, that needs to be our focus, we need to get an agreement on arrangements that respect Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom and that allow for continuing cross-border trade where that is required, and I don't see how an election helps us to get there.

"But, to be clear, we're ready to fight in that election, I've just been signing off on our election literature, we're ready to go. If the Secretary of State decides to call the election I'm not afraid to take my case to the people."

It comes as the Secretary of State reiterated his commitment to calling an Assembly election if power sharing is not restored.

Chris Heaton Harris will meet political parties here after being re-appointed to the position by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Mr Heaton-Harris has said the law requires him to call an election at one-minute past midnight on Friday morning should power sharing not be restored.

In a tweet, Mr Heaton-Harris said: "My priority is for NI's political leaders to come together and restore the Executive. The people of Northern Ireland deserve a fully-functioning devolved government so I understand the public’s frustration. However, if the parties will not re-form, I will call an election."

On Tuesday new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reappointed the MP for Daventry to the post he was first appointed to in September by Liz Truss.

The DUP is blocking the functioning of the power-sharing institutions in Belfast as part of their protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol which has created barriers on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey said he is "sure" the DUP will have a meeting with Rishi Sunak about the Protocol.

"I've asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister to ensure that he continues to prioritise getting a solution which replaces the protocol with arrangements to respect the integrity of the United Kingdom.

"The Prime Minister said yesterday he wants to unite the nation, not just by words but by actions. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and I want to ensure that the Prime Minister delivers on those actions, decisive action to deal with the protocol to remove barriers to trade within the United Kingdom.

"I'm sure that we will have that meeting with the Prime Minister."

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