By Rebecca Black and Claudia Savage, PA
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has described the Windsor Framework as a “sticking plaster” and said he is looking forward to further negotiation with the UK government.
The deal received effective endorsement from the House of Commons on Wednesday when a strong majority of MPs voted through regulations to facilitate a key plank of the deal.
The DUP and some Conservative MPs were among 29 to vote against the Stormont brake, while there were 515 votes for.
Mr Donaldson insisted on Thursday that the Windsor Framework is “insufficient”, and said more work is needed to ensure arrangements “respect Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and its internal market”.
The DUP is refusing to participate in the Stormont Assembly until its concerns around the post-Brexit settlement are tackled.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris met delegations from the five major Stormont parties at Hillsborough Castle on Thursday.
Speaking after his meeting with Mr Heaton-Harris, Mr Donaldson said: “I am not interested in sticking plasters, they don’t work and I’m afraid there is in the Windsor Framework an element of the sticking plaster.
“It won’t work, it will not deliver the long-term stability and prosperity that Northern Ireland needs.”
Mr Donaldson said his party is looking to the British prime minister and UK government to “sort this out”.
“No better place than here at Royal Hillsborough to say to the Government we need to sort this out, we need to get the change that is required to deliver stable, sustainable government in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“When the Foreign Secretary comes back from Brussels, when the Prime Minister has the time, we’ll be sitting down with them along with the Secretary of State and we’ll be putting our case.”
However, Mr Heaton-Harris said that the Windsor Framework will be implemented into law.
“The Windsor Framework is not a sticking plaster, it’s a solution to the problems that were produced by the protocol and it will work,” he told the media.
“And the two sides to those negotiations which have concluded, the UK Government and the European Union, are going to make the framework work.
“So there is nothing more to get out of that conversation. It is done.”
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said it is “time to move on” and for the Stormont Executive to be reformed immediately.
“Really now, there is no further pretext, no further excuse to keep the executive down and to keep the assembly down,” she said.
“While we respect the need for people to have time to reflect, time for clarification, the truth is that matters have been settled between London and Brussels, and the facts are now that political leaders need to step forward, get back to government and do the business.”
Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said negotiations are over, describing the Windsor Framework as a “done deal”.
“This is not going to be reopened for renegotiation, this is being formally signed off tomorrow by the UK and European Union in the joint committee, so it is clear it is now time for people to make the decision in terms of what they want to do in terms of making Northern Ireland work, and it is time for the DUP to get back to the political institutions and work with the rest of us to address a whole range of problems that are piling up.”
UUP deputy leader Robbie Butler said there is still a lot of work to be done to restore the Stormont Executive.
“We reiterated the challenges that the Windsor Framework brings here to Northern Ireland, the governance issues that lie within it, but also talked about the opportunities,” he said.
“There is clearly a lot of work still to be done here to restore Stormont, but that’s what we want the Secretary of State put as his priority now.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “The House of Commons made a very clear statement yesterday – there is no more negotiating to be done, the deal is the deal. We have big reservations about parts of it, we don’t like the Stormont brake, but we’ve all been through enough negotiations to know that you don’t get everything you want in a negotiation, and now is the time to lead.
“Jeffrey Donaldson has been given some time to consider… there may be a bit more time left, but not much because the health service has basically collapsed, the economy had stagnated, and we have a huge opportunity with this protocol to trade into both markets unencumbered.”