DUP form eight-member party panel to examine Windsor Framework

The DUP has announced an eight-member panel to examine the detail of the Windsor Framework.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, in an interview with UTV said the panel would report back to the party this month and that will inform its decision-making process on the deal agreed between the EU and UK.

The panel includes former leaders of the party, current MLAs, MPs and former executive ministers.

It is expected to report back at the end of March. Sir Jeffrey said having Stormont up and running for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement was not a deadline.

"I want to get this right, and however long that takes, it is important we get it right," he said.

Sir Jeffrey denied the move was a delaying tactic, saying it was important for the party to get its decision right.

He explained that he wanted "a focused piece of work where we identify the sectors that are going to be most impacted" by the deal.

"We want to understand what their priorities and concerns are, so that's why this is a specific body of work over and above both the internal and external consultation we as a party are undertaking at the moment through our representatives."

Asked if the panel's report would be published, Sir Jeffrey said it would be internally assessed by those in the party.

After the report is compiled it will be for the party officers to decide on the party's stance, he added.

Sir Jeffrey said his party was already engaging with the government on its concerns around the framework.

He believes there is the capacity between the UK and EU to change the deal.

The Windsor Framework was announced last week by the Prime Minister and European Commission President. It aims to reduce the number of checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to NI.

The DUP has been boycotting power sharing due to its concerns over checks included within the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking to UTV, the DUP leader said his party would "take time to examine in detail what has been agreed, not just in relation to the framework, but the legal text which accompanies it".

"It includes significant changes to EU law and UK law as well and it replaces the Protocol with a new arrangement that we need to understand as well.

"We need to see what the UK legislation will look like, that is absolutely critical," he added.

"The actions we have taken, we want to make sure we get this right and therefore not only are we examining and assessing the framework, and all the documents and legal requirements associated with it, but we also want to consult more widely within in the community to hear what people have to say, to understand the concerns people have so that we can get answers to their questions as well as to ours," explained the DUP leader.

The membership of the DUP panel includes former DUP leaders Dame Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson, current MLAs Brian Kingston and Deborah Erskine, Carla Lockhart MP, Lord Peter Weir, as well as businessman Ross Reed and lawyer John McBurney.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson rejected that he already knew what panel members would say.

"With Arlene you have someone who I believe is more than capable of independent thought, she is someone sitting outside the party but with very significant political knowledge and contacts right across the community," he said.

"What I'm asking both my DUP colleagues and those who are not within the party who I've appointed to this panel, is to go out and talk to people and listen outside the party.

"I'm not asking them to give me their view, I'm asking them to reflect the views that they're collecting and hearing from people across the community."

The party leader outlined that "this is about the DUP getting this right", adding "I think it's right that we take our time".

He did however explain that he was hopeful the panel would file a report by the end of March.

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