As Stormont election deadline looms DUP says UK government talks 'resume' this week

The DUP is insisting that talks with the UK Government regarding the Windsor Framework are to continue this week, despite the Northern Ireland Secretary’s pre-Christmas comments that they have concluded.

A party statement claims “discussions will resume this week”.

It comes as pressure continues to mount on the DUP to accept the £3.3billion package that is being dangled by Chris Heaton Harris in exchange for the restoration of the Executive at Stormont.

“We remain focused on getting a fair and balanced outcome,” said Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. 

The party said nobody was available for interview, however, in a statement on Monday the party told UTV's View From Stormont.

“Our goal throughout this process has been to restore Northern Ireland’s place within the UK Internal Market as set out in our Manifesto,” the DUP leader said, adding that the Protocol was “destabilising” and that “there remains work to be done”.

January comes with a deadline that will more than likely be ignored by the NI Secretary.

If there is no end to this almost two-year hiatus by the 18th of January, he is duty-bound to call an early assembly election.

However, he has used emergency legislation to defer that obligation already and it is therefore unlikely that NI will be ballot-box-bound again in May.

January 18th is a key date for another reason - the biggest ever public sector strike is set to take place.

Staff are calling for the same pay rise that was awarded to peers elsewhere in the UK, while the malfunctioning politics here meant that local workers did not get the increase.

Sinn Féin MP John Finucane told View From Stormont that the talking is done, so it's time to accept the deal to unlock the pay award for those workers.

"Very clearly that the negotiations over the Windsor framework, both with the European Union and with the DUP, are over.

"So it's quite clearly decision time for the DUP, it's decision time for Jeffrey Donaldson, whether he actually wants to respect the outcome of the Assembly election 19 months ago and whether he wants to put his party in a position where we can actually deliver for people in our society, so we can tackle waiting lists, where we can deliver for public sector workers."

UTV asked Mr Finucane what Chris Heaton Harris should do now.

"I think he should continue to apply pressure so that we can get the institutions of the executive back up and running," he replied.

"That is what people want to see. We have public sector workers that will be going on a mass strike on January 18th. We saw strikes and right across the north pre-Christmas so we need to make sure the public sector pay and conditions are dealt with."

The Alliance Party is calling for the immediate resumption of power sharing, but is also reiterating its past calls for reform to prevent this happening again.

"We should have a situation where if one party doesn't want to step up and do the job that others can and they're not blocking the restoration of the institutions at Stormont," he said.

"We don't think it's tenable - 74% of people in a recent poll had a view that no one party should be able to collapse the assembly. We agree with that. We should have a situation where if people don't want to opt in to government, they can opt out.

"The DUP may say they're not calendar led... well the people on waiting lists and in Accident and Emergency - they're calendar led.

"And in terms of the discussions the DUP are talking about in the next weeks or months... we don't have weeks or months, we have days.

TUV leader Jim Allister says that there has been much "pretence" and "hype" surrounding negotiations, but that he does "not detect anything of substance that would undo the protocol".

"Well there can only be what some call progress if unionism is prepared to roll over and implement the destruction of the union through implementing the protocol," he said.

"That means accepting an Irish Sea Border, accepting colonial rule from Europe, accepting the governance of a foreign court and I don't see how unionism can possibly do that because that's all that's on offer from the government."

Commentator Alex Kane says the world of politics felt a breakthrough was imminent in December, but that the DUP was "spooked" in some way and now faces a difficult decision.

"Jeffrey's in the position that David Trimble was in 1998," he told View From Stormont.

"He has to take his party into devolution in which Sinn Féin will be involved in the executive Jeffrey walked away from those talks because there were things he wasn't satisfied with. His moment, now, is more than a Trimble moment because back then Unionism was still the majority of not just in part, but across the overall vote.

"And also Sinn Fein was the fourth of the five parties. Sinn Fein is now the largest party. Sinn Fein is in line to have first minister. Unionism no longer accounts for a majority of the vote. That's a much more difficult sell. But also I think it's because Donaldson has this problem. He's he's looking outside his party....

"Trimble never did that. Trimble would always say the same thing - "This decision will be made by members of this party, by the officers of this party, by the executive of this party, by the Governing Council of this party."

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