DUP rejects the possibility of an immediate agreement to reinstate power sharing in Northern Ireland

Party spokesperson dismisses speculation of a pre-Christmas deal, stating that the DUP is driven by conditions, not the calendar.

The Democratic Unionist party (DUP) has rejected rumors of a resolution to Northern Ireland’s political deadlock and the restoration of power sharing before Christmas.

On Monday, party sources indicated that talks with the UK government regarding post-Brexit trading arrangements require more time and will continue in the new year.

Hopes of a breakthrough this week, which would have ended the DUP’s 22-month boycott of the Stormont executive and assembly, were dashed. A party spokesperson confirmed that there would not be an imminent agreement, stating: “The DUP is condition-led, not calendar-led.”

This statement effectively puts to rest the speculation that party leader Jeffrey Donaldson was poised to resolve the political vacuum, which has left civil servants in charge of Northern Ireland. DUP sources, along with British and Irish officials, remain optimistic that a deal will be reached soon.

The DUP collapsed Stormont in February 2022 in protest against checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, arguing that these checks undermined the region’s position within the UK. While the Windsor framework, proposed by Rishi Sunak, eased some of the DUP’s concerns, not all of them were addressed. This has led to several months of ongoing negotiations, which both sides believe are nearing a conclusion.

One potential compromise involves changing product labeling to indicate that the goods are “for sale in Scotland, England, and Wales” rather than “for sale in the UK only.” However, these adjustments are expected to fall short of the seven tests outlined by the DUP. Hence, Donaldson faces the challenge of gaining support within his party for the proposed deal.

Most of the party’s assembly members are believed to support the restoration of Stormont. A fiscal crisis, deteriorating public services, and strikes have intensified calls for power-sharing to be reinstated. However, DUP hardliners, including MPs like Ian Paisley, demand the complete removal of the Irish Sea border.

Donaldson also faces pressure from vocal loyalists and a rival party, the Traditional Unionist Voice, which has been accused of displaying posters over the weekend with the message “stop DUP sellout”.

In response, Donaldson stated: “I will not be intimidated or distracted by such shadowy behavior, just as I have faced similar behavior from republicans in the past.”

Last week, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris offered a £2.5 billion financial package to the region on the condition that the executive is reinstated. He was scheduled to meet with Donaldson, as well as the leaders of Sinn Féin, Alliance, and the Ulster Unionist Party on Monday to discuss the package.

The package would encompass a new funding formula for public services and a lump sum to settle wage claims that have resulted in industrial action by education, health, and transportation workers.

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