By David Young, PA
The DUP has urged the British government to stop “overselling” its new post-Brexit deal on Northern Ireland and focus on providing clarity on its detail.
Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson again made clear that the DUP will take its time to consider the Windsor Framework before deciding whether to back it.
Some prominent DUP figures, including Nigel Dodds and MPs Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley, have already suggested that the deal potentially does not go far enough to address their concerns over trade and sovereignty.
Last week, the British government committed to amend the 1998 Northern Ireland Act to provide further reassurance to unionists about the region’s constitutional status within the UK.
Mr Donaldson said his party needs to see the detail of those proposed amendments.
“We need to see what that looks like,” he told GB News on Sunday.
Mr Donaldson has also asked for clarity on the so-called “Stormont brake” – a mechanism contained within the framework that offers a minority of MLAs (30 from at least two parties) the ability to refer to the UK government its concerns about the introduction of new EU laws in Northern Ireland.
The British government could then potentially prevent the application of those laws in the region.
“I think we do need that clarity from the government,” said Mr Donaldson.
“Less of the oversell and more of the reality. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle of all of this and that’s what we need to get at.
“We will seek to do that ourselves with our own assessment. But I think we need to hear from the government, particularly from the prime minister, on the reality of what all of this means.
“We need to see legislation that will put in place the Stormont brake, we need to ensure that is a robust process that does protect Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.
“And we need to see legislation that also ensures that where there is a threat to Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and its internal market in the future, the UK government has a duty to ensure that this matter is resolved, that Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom is protected at all times.”
The DUP leader said he and his party colleagues are “going to take our time” to come to a final decision.
“This is a very complex document, the framework and the legal text that accompanies it, and we’re seeking advice from experts on what this means in terms of all of the concerns that we had about the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.
“We need to assess what this new framework means – does it do what we need in terms of restoring Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and its internal market?”
On Sunday, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the British government will provide further details to the Stormont parties on the brake mechanism in the week ahead.
In an interview with Sky News, he insisted the measure represents a “veto”.
“It’s a veto”, he said. “If it’s going to affect Northern Ireland in a significant way we would veto EU law.
“You can’t be using a veto trivially, but I don’t actually think the Northern Ireland Assembly would be using that trivially.”
Meanwhile, Mr Donaldson was asked for his response to remarks attributed to EU vice-president Maros Sefcovic that the Windsor Framework does not represent the UK taking back control and that the Stormont brake would be “very much limited” in scope.
“There is no doubt there is a lot of spin on both sides of this and the EU are perfectly capable of spin as well,” said the DUP leader.
“I think that Maros Sefcovic is trying to play down some aspects of the framework, particularly the Stormont brake, because they’re concerned about setting a precedent within the EU.”