The Northern Ireland secretary announces the conclusion of discussions on trading after Brexit, as stated by DUP.

Chris Heaton-Harris suggests it is time to reinstate devolved government, surprising DUP leader

Talks with the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) regarding post-Brexit trading arrangements concluded, and now it is necessary to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland, stated the Northern Ireland secretary.

The statement made by Chris Heaton-Harris on Tuesday seemed to catch DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, off guard. Donaldson mentioned that the party still has concerns and that discussions will continue.

This announcement overshadowed a £3.3bn financial package offer, which Heaton-Harris specified as a final proposal to stabilize the region’s finances and encourage the revival of the Stormont executive that has been inactive for almost two years due to a DUP walkout.

“It is disappointing that a new executive will not be operational before Christmas to accept and fulfill this offer for the people of Northern Ireland,” commented Heaton-Harris. “Nevertheless, this package is available and will remain so, ready for day one of the incoming Northern Ireland executive.”

This offer followed a week of roundtable discussions about public finances involving the four main party leaders at Hillsborough Castle. These talks took place against a backdrop of a fiscal deficit, crumbling public services, and strikes by transportation, health, and education workers.

Since spring, the government has engaged in separate talks with the DUP on the Windsor framework’s attempt to mitigate the impact of the Irish Sea border, which the party perceives as a threat to Northern Ireland’s position within the UK.

“From our perspective, the Windsor framework talks have essentially concluded all substantive matters, but we are always open to addressing concerns and questions on this,” explained Heaton-Harris. “Now is the time for decisions to be made.”

However, Donaldson stated that talks would continue. He stated: “There is still no final agreement on substantive issues, and we will continue engaging with the government until we reach an agreement. We will persevere – our goal is to get this right.”

There had been hopes of a breakthrough this week to end the DUP’s 22-month boycott of Stormont, but on Monday, Donaldson indicated the need for more time and, perhaps, additional concessions.

The DUP leader also expressed doubt about the financial package, stating: “We still believe that the financial offer does not provide the necessary stability for Northern Ireland’s future in the coming years.”

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Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of Sinn Féin, stated that the DUP has “reversed its position” since last week when it seemed close to accepting a deal on the Windsor framework. She remarked: “People will be deeply disappointed that a government has still not been formed.”

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