Stormont return: Donaldson says DUP not split over deal while his critics achieved ‘nothing’

Brussels will ‘analyse carefully’ UK government’s plans contained in the deal aimed at restoring powersharing


The details of the deal secured by Jeffrey Donaldson’s DUP with the UK government to re-enter the North’s Assembly and Executive were published earlier on Wednesday.

There will be an “ongoing guarantee” that Northern Ireland goods being sold into the rest of the UK will not be subject to checks.

The UK government will also change regulations to stop Northern Ireland being used as a “back door” into the British market – and ban food and feed goods travelling from Northern Ireland to Britain unless they originate within the North.

Mr Donaldson has said the agreement will remove all post-Brexit checks on goods destined for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

It is understood the UK government will introduce two statutory instruments at Westminster to give legislative effect to the commitments it has made on trade and sovereignty.

The DUP has been using a veto power to block Stormont’s devolved institutions for almost two years in protest at the post-Brexit arrangements that have created trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Main Points

  • Donaldson says deal will provide ‘real change delivering progress for everyone in Northern Ireland’
  • Brussels will ‘analyse carefully’ the UK government’s plans contained in the deal
  • No checks when goods move within UK internal market system
  • Assembly and Executive are set to resume by February 8th
  • Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill set to become North’s first nationalist First Minister
  • Return of Stormont will see UK treasury release £3.3 billion (€3.87 billion) package

Best reads on DUP deal


That concludes of live coverage of Wednesday’s events. To catch up with the day’s news, read our Northern Ireland wrap.


Our Europe Correspondent Naomi O’Leary has this on the EU’s perspective:

The European Commission is to “analyse carefully” the agreement between the DUP and British government to tweak Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit arrangements to allow the restoration of Stormont.

The commission’s vice-president and lead man on deal making with Britain Maroš Šefčovič held a phone call with UK foreign secretary David Cameron and the Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

In a joint statement after the call, they said both sides agreed “on the high importance of seeing the Northern Ireland Executive restored and delivering for the people of Northern Ireland”.

The European Commission is to “analyse carefully the texts published today”, according to the statement.

Both sides have a “shared commitment to the full implementation of the Windsor Framework”, it said, and would continue talks together through the channels that the agreement set up.

The two sides proposed a solution on tariff rate quotas earlier this week. The statement welcomed this as a step that “would deliver benefits for Northern Ireland importers and was another demonstration of the positive outcomes constructive joint working could achieve”.

The restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland was strongly welcomed in Brussels. The agreement offered to the DUP still needs to be studied in detail, officials say, though as things stand there is no major alarm about its content on the EU side.

The EU has previously said that Britain is free to tweak how it implements the Windsor Framework internally. If changes affect trade with the EU however or would alter the agreement that was previously reached, they would need to be approved by member states.

Additionally Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday night that the European Commission will want to ask some questions about the trading arrangements offered in the deal.

Mr Varadkar said there would be “questions” about the deal and its effect on trading arrangements but that as things stood there were no major “red flags”.

“We’ve only really seen the detail today, we’re going to have to study it. I think there are certainly going to be some questions we will want to ask, more particularly the European Commission will want to ask some questions about the trading arrangements,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.

“From what I’ve seen so far I don’t see any red flags, I don’t see anything that would give undue cause for concern.”

The deal would need to be faithful both to the Belfast Agreement in ensuring no hard Border between North and South, and also respect the Windsor Framework that was agreed between the EU and UK government, he said.

“Mainly it’s going to be the Commission that takes the lead role on that, on ensuring that any of the new arrangements any of the modifications are consistent with what was agreed,” he said.


During an earlier press conference, Mr Donaldson denied his party was divided over the new deal.

He said: “I don’t accept the characterisation that my party is split.”

On Monday’s executive meeting, he said he was sure support for the deal with the Government was “decisive”.

“There was a very wide margin of support for the position we have adopted, that the vote was absolutely decisive.”

He said his critics have achieved “a big blank sheet of nothing”.

Answering a question at a press conference, the DUP leader said: “I can demonstrate very clearly what we have delivered and it’s there for everyone to read.

“My question to my critics is: ‘What have you delivered? What change have you secured?’

“Well, I have to say that I think if they were to set out in a paper the changes that they have secured, that’s what it would look like.”

Holding aloft a blank sheet of a notebook, he continued: “A big blank sheet of nothing.”

He also accused some of his detractors of not wanting Stormont back and living “in a bygone era”.

He once again hit out at unionist and loyalist critics of the deal, namechecking TUV leader Jim Allister to ask directly what progress he had made over the last two years.

The DUP leader said: “Some of those who are our critics really don’t want Stormont back – that is the reality.”

Some, he said, live in a “bygone era”.

“Yes, I did share platforms with people. And all of us declared what our objectives were, all of us.

“The difference between me and those who are my critics tonight is very clear and very simple – I got off the platform and went and did something to secure my objectives.

“My critics got off the platform and did nothing.” – PA


The document containing the breakdown of the deal is entitled Safeguarding the Union.


If you’re looking for something to help you get caught up with Wednesday’s developments on the commute home or while you’re making dinner, the Irish Times Inside Politics podcast team has you covered.

Pat Leahy, Freya McClements and Mark Paul join Hugh Linehan to discuss the DUP’s acceptance of a historic deal that could allow powersharing in Northern Ireland to resume within days.

Stormont will return: Analysis from Belfast, London and Dublin

Listen | 46:49


Back at Hillsborough Castle, Mr Heaton-Harris admitted he is still learning about unionism.

He said he was at “GCSE level” in his understanding of the unionist tradition in Northern Irish politics.

“I probably needed some extra explanation about unionism in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“I’ve had a decent education, I’m probably on GCSE level at this point but I’m sure it will continue until I get my masters.”

Speaking after the Northern Secretary, Mr Donaldson said there is a “trust issue” among the people of Northern Ireland when it comes to whether the UK government will follow through on its commitments.

“I recognise, of course, that not just my colleagues, but the people in Northern Ireland have concerns about how things may progress.

“There’s a trust issue here. That trust issue is not in me, that trust issue is in whether the Government will deliver what they have committed to do.

“I believe that we have built into these proposals sufficient safeguards and leverage that enables us to deliver what is being done.”

He said he did not have to “sell” the deal, adding: “I have simply asked the people of Northern Ireland to judge the deal on its merits.

“We are being inundated, flooded, with messages of support from unionists right across Northern Ireland.

“I think these proposals are more than capable of selling themselves.” – PA


Elsewhere, Sinn Féin vice-president and soon to be the North’s new first minister Michelle O’Neill said she is “determined to lead a new Executive as a first minister for all”.


Mr Donaldson said at the press conference: “This is our achievement, after two years of hard work and negotiation.”

He said it would provide “real change delivering progress for everyone in Northern Ireland” amid “long and protracted negotiations”.

“I won’t claim that every battle has been won or even that every battle is finished,” he told reporters.

But he said the deal “gives us an opportunity to bank the progress that we have made, the gains and the changes we have secured, and continue making the case for further change”.

He spoke of a “a confident unionism, a forward-looking unionism ... that wants to make progress for everyone in Northern Ireland”.

He said he is “confident” his party will work together as he challenged the “naysayers” to detail what improvements they have made to post-Brexit rules.

In a press conference at Hillsborough Castle, he said: “To those out there who are our critics, who are the naysayers, I simply ask them, and I challenge them, show us what you have achieved, what have you delivered by way of change to the protocol, to the Windsor Framework?

“The DUP is the party of delivery, we are the party that has secured change, and that change has been delivered by a party that has worked together, and I’m confident that my party will continue to work together to deliver more change in the future.” – PA



Mr Heaton-Harris said he would bring forward two pieces of legislation as part of the deal with the DUP.

“Tomorrow in the House of Commons we will introduce two core pieces of legislation within this deal,” he said at a press conference in Hillsborough.

“This is the right deal for Northern Ireland. And the right deal for the union.

“The [UK] government is committed to delivering this deal swiftly so we can build a brighter future for Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.”

He added: “I look forward to working with the new first and deputy first minister.”

He also rejected Sammy Wilson’s allegation that the deal to restore Stormont powersharing was “spineless”.

“I thought Sammy was being quite quiet and timid for him today so that’s interesting.” – PA


DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson and Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris are currently at a press conference in Hillsborough Castle.


Across the Atlantic, a US congressman who had a long involvement in the North’s peace process has described the return of government to Stormont “as a victory for democracy and for the people of Northern Ireland,” writes Washington Correspondent Keith Duggan.

Richard Neal, the US Democratic congressman for Massachusetts, was speaking at the House of Representatives session on Wednesday, and said that he applauded the deal that will restore executive government to Northern Ireland.

“After nearly two years of delay, Stormont is one step closer to resuming the people’s business. This is a victory for democracy and for the people of Northern Ireland,” he said before drawing comparison between this week’s agreement and the historic peace agreement of 1998.

“The [Belfast] Good Friday agreement marked the end of the longest period of conflict in Irish history. It happened because everyone involved acted together in good faith. Almost 26 years on, the parties in Northern Ireland are doing precisely that: acting in good faith to restore government and resume the difficult work, indeed, of legislating.”

Mr Neal was elected to congress in 1988 and has long been associated with efforts to advance the peace process. He is the Democratic leader of the Friends of Ireland caucus in the House of Representatives and in 2022 he led a bipartisan delegation of representatives from Congress on a series of meetings in Dublin, Belfast and London and spoke of “some very hard conversations” in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.

“We have made the argument that the Good Friday Agreement has worked and has worked quite well. We don’t want to see it disturbed,” the congressman said then.

“‘We’re not coming up to the 25th anniversary and recall that everybody gave up something to put to rest the longest standing political dispute of the western world. So I recounted that before secretary Truss yesterday: we don’t want to see anything disturbed and we intend to be as unwavering as is necessary.”

At the time, Mr Neal served as chairman of the House of Representatives ways and means committee, responsible for signing off on any trade team between the United States and the United Kingdom. Discussions between then Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the delegation, and he repeatedly emphasised that there could be no such trade deal if Brexit jeopardised the Belfast Agreement. He returned to the success of that agreement in congratulating Northern Ireland in the positive development.

“When the United States helped to broker the Good Friday agreement, cementing its place as a guarantor of that agreement, it did so with one primary objective: ensuring every tradition in Northern Ireland had a voice in pursuit of peace and prosperity. With that restoration of power sharing on the horizon, the people today in Northern Ireland are the winners and their voices will be heard once again.”


Reaction to the deal has continued this evening.

The DUP deputy leader Gavin Robinson has told party colleague Sammy Wilson he is wrong to claim the new deal will leave EU border posts in Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson told BBC Radio 4′s PM programme: “He’s wrong in respect that there will be a border post within this agreement.

“There will be red lane infrastructure but red lane infrastructure is for goods moving from GB to the European Union.” – PA


Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said this is “a very big moment” for Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, who is in line to become the first nationalist first minister of Northern Ireland.

“I would say that it’s a very big moment for Michelle O’Neill, on the cusp of becoming first minister in Northern Ireland, so I wish Michelle the very best and for her and the family. And, indeed, for whoever becomes the deputy first minister, representing the DUP.”

He said that one of the downsides of powersharing having been collapsed for two years is that “new young voices” that had been elected have not had a chance “to be heard”.

“Now there’s an opportunity for those voices to be heard, for the people that elected them to hear their new representatives along with those who have been re-elected, and to be heard.

“So, that’s the real significance of the moment, I would argue.

“I think politics in the north is fragmented, politics in the republic is fragmented, and coalition governments of one form or another will be the future. So, that’s in terms of the politics of it.” – PA


WATCH: Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris earlier outlined to the House of Commons the details of the deal which sets the stage for the return of the Stormont powersharing institutions.


For more on the loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, check out Gerry Moriarty’s recent piece here:


Good evening, I’m Glen Murphy. Thanks to my colleague Ronan McGreevy for his coverage on today’s developments so far.


Thanks for staying with us during the day. I will now hand over to my colleague Glen Murphy.


Buried in the British government text is a pledge to scrape all legal duties relating to an “all-island economy”.

A commitment that any UK-EU arrangement over Brexit must have regard to the “all-island economy” was contained in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

It was a bone of contention for unionists who believed that it was a stepping stone to an all-Ireland economy.

The UK government command paper talks of a “commitment to remove the legal duties to have regard to the ‘all-island economy’.

In response a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: “The UK government has today published Statutory Instruments and a Command Paper.

“Ireland will now take time to examine them in detail and the European Commission will do likewise.

“We are hopeful that they will be faithful to the arrangements put in place to meet the specific challenges that Brexit has presented for Northern Ireland.

“The Government is ready to engage constructively with the new Executive to assist and to work together in areas where North South co-operation could make a positive difference.”


National Union of Journalist (NUJ) Irish secretary Seamus Dooley has confirmed that loyalist activist Jamie Bryson is not a member of the union despite recent reports that he is a member.


Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister, is, to nobody’s surprise, not happy with the deal.

Mr Allister has said the deal fundamentally fails one of the DUP’s tests that it be compatible with Article 6 of the Act of Union 1800.

What does Article 6 state? “The subjects of Great Britain and Ireland shall be on the same footing in respect of trade and navigation, and in all treaties with foreign powers the subjects of Ireland shall have the same privileges as British subjects.”

He accused the DUP of being Northern Ireland “protocol implementers”.

Instead of being on an equal footing with the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland will have the “same EU laws as [the Republic of Ireland] governing our goods economy – laws which Stormont ministers can’t change but must administer as Protocol implementers”.


Much has been made and said about the DUP’s seven tests. The party refused to return to Stormont until these tests were met, but what were they to start with?

1. Guarantee the sixth article of the Act of the Union 1800

2. Avoid diversion of trade

4. Giving NI people a say in their laws

5. No checks on goods between GB/NI

6. No new regulatory barriers between NI and rest of UK – unless agreed in Stormont

7. Preserve ‘letter and spirit’ of NI’s position set out in the Good Friday Agreement

The DUP states that all these tests have been met in part or in whole.


Margaret Thatcher once famously said Northern Ireland was as “British as Finchley”.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris repeated the refrain when asked by DUP MP Paul Girvan if the command paper will ensure that people in Northern Ireland remain as British as those in London, Cardiff or Edinburgh?

“And Daventry,” responded the MP for Daventry, to laughter. Daventry is in the very heart of the English midlands.

Confused by the deal, don’t know your green lanes from your red lanes, what’s the difference between the Windsor Framework and this deal? Cliff Taylor has all the answers here.

What is in the new post-Brexit trade plan aimed at breaking the Stormont deadlock?


The UK cabinet has committed to meeting in Northern Ireland for the first time.

The command paper contains a provision that the meeting will take place within a year “when the institutions are running”.

Before 2008, cabinet meetings outside London were extremely rare.


Routine post-Brexit checks on goods shipped from Great Britain to final destinations in Northern Ireland are to be removed as part of a British government deal to restore powersharing at Stormont.

A command paper titled “Safeguarding The Union” commits to replacing the current green lane process, which requires percentages of goods to be checked as they arrive from Great Britain, with a “UK internal market system” that will govern the movement of goods that will remain within the United Kingdom.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has hailed the move as a key concession that will effectively scrap the contentious so-called Irish Sea border for goods destined to remain within the UK.

“There should not be a border within the UK internal market. These proposals remove that border,” he said.

The measure is part of a wide-ranging deal agreed between the DUP and the British government that is set to bring about the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland after a two-year hiatus.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said restored powersharing in Northern Ireland offered the prospect of a “brighter future”.

Mr Sunak told the Commons: “After two years without an executive, there is now a prospect of powersharing back up and running, strengthening our Union, giving people the local, accountable government that they need, and offering a brighter future for Northern Ireland.”

The DUP has agreed to drop its two-year blockade of Stormont in exchange for the British government measures aimed at addressing its concerns about post-Brexit trading arrangements that created economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The Stormont Assembly could sit again as soon as Saturday.

While Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has secured the backing of party colleagues to accept the deal, there are those within the DUP who remain deeply sceptical of the proposed agreement to restore powersharing.

Speaking in the Commons, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson voiced his concerns as he heavily criticised the Government.

“When the Northern Ireland Assembly sits, ministers and Assembly members will be expected by law to adhere to and implement laws which are made in Brussels, which they had no say over and no ability to amend, and no ability to stop,” he said.

“This is a result of this spineless, weak-kneed, Brexit-betraying government, refusing to take on the EU and its interference in Northern Ireland.”

Under the deal, the post-Brexit red lane for transporting goods from GB to NI and on into the EU Single Market will remain, but the command paper offers measures aimed at reducing the volume of trade required to use that red-tape heavy route, with a prediction that 80% of goods will now move free of routine checks through the internal market system.

The move to reduce post-Brexit checks on GB-NI trade would represent a change to the current EU/UK Windsor Framework agreement and therefore would require Brussels approval.

It is understood the EU has been kept up to date with the shape of the UK government’s package of measures.

Downing Street has said that the deal contains “significant” changes to the Windsor Framework’s “operation”, but is not about altering the “fundamentals” of the framework.

The formal implementation of any changes to the framework are expected to be examined and decided upon within the existing EU/UK Joint Committee framework in the days and weeks ahead.

A move already approved by the Joint Committee, and announced on Tuesday, will see Northern Ireland given barrier-free access to internationally sourced agri-food goods that are currently freely available in GB through UK free trade deals with other countries.

The command paper said the replacement of the green lane would ensure there will be “no checks when goods move within the UK internal market system save those conducted by UK authorities as part of a risk-based or intelligence-led approach to tackle criminality, abuse of the scheme, smuggling and disease risks”.

The paper adds: “This will ensure the smooth flow of goods that are moving within the UK internal market.”

As well as moves to cut Brexit bureaucracy on Irish Sea trade, the command paper includes a series of measures aimed at providing assurances around Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.

Legislation will be tabled with the purpose of “affirming Northern Ireland’s constitutional status underpinned by, among other provisions, the Acts of Union”.


DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the deal he had struck with the Government was the best he could get for the people of Northern Ireland.

He said: “I am absolutely convinced, and we have worked hard at this, that this is the best that we can get.

“Measured against our seven tests I am satisfied with the progress we have made.

“I am satisfied that in terms of our core objectives we have delivered for the people of Northern Ireland. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t.

“Have we delivered everything we would have wanted at this stage? No, we haven’t.”

He added: “I haven’t finished. This work is not done, there is more to do.”


DUP MP and deputy leader Gavin Robinson sounded upbeat in the House of Commons about the deal.

His party had taken a positive decision on the basis of the command paper published by the UK government on Tuesday, he told MPs.

“We have turned the impossible into the possible. We have turned the undeliverable into a deliverable. We are hopeful for the future.”

Mr Robinson added: “We were told the Windsor Framework could not have been reopened. We reopened it.

“We were told there would be no change in the green lane. The green lane is gone. We were told there would be no removal of barriers on trade between GB and Northern Ireland. We have removed all checks with the UK internal market system save for those ordinarily required.

“We would be told there would be no legal change within the Windsor Framework. Yet we have had 60 pages of legislative changes to text that it will allow rest-of-the-world products and the benefit of UK-wide trade deals to truly be available. We are grateful we have got to this place today,” Mr Robinson said.


UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has praised the deal. He thanked the parties in Northern Ireland for the “patience” they have shown.

“After two years without an Executive, there is now the prospect of powersharing back up and running, strengthening our union and giving people the local accountable government that they need and offering a brighter future for Northern Ireland”.

Sinn Féin First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill said there is a “fair understanding” that there will be a Saturday sitting of the Assembly to elect a speaker and a deputy speaker.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has told the House of Commons: “Only yesterday we saw how quickly progress has been made with a joint legal solution reached with the European Union on tariff rate quotas.

“This solution, to be taken forward at the next UK-EU joint committee, would ensure that Northern Ireland traders can benefit from the UK’s independent free trade policy when importing agri-food goods, reflecting Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK customs territory.”

Mr Heaton-Harris said an independent monitoring panel would ensure a “pragmatic and practical approach without gold plating”.

He said the deal will “recognise the importance of the connections across the United Kingdom now and in the future”, with a new UK east-west economic council bringing businesses and ministers together to “identify the opportunities that unite us across all parts of the United Kingdom”.

Mr Heaton-Harris said Intertrade UK will be established to promote and facilitate trade within the United Kingdom.

He also told MPs: “This deal will help put Northern Ireland’s public services on a sustainable footing with funding totalling over £3 billion to support public services in Northern Ireland, providing a solid foundation for the Executive to deliver better outcomes in the day-to-day lives of the people of Northern Ireland.”


DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the Stormont brake mechanism would be tested within the first month of the formation of a new Assembly.

He said: “On the application of the Stormont brake. The command paper published today will say that this will be tested within the first month of the Assembly sitting.

“We will know very quickly because we know there are some changes to EU law coming down the track.

“There will be an opportunity for the Assembly to look at that and the Assembly can pull the brake at that point and say no, we think this EU regulation is harmful to our ability to trade with the rest of the UK.

“That opens up a process whereby ultimately the UK government can veto the application of that EU law if it is harmful to Northern Ireland.

“The government have agreed with us that those arrangements would be tested in the first month of the Assembly,” he said.


The text of the legislation which secured the DUP’s return to powersharing in the North has been published, according to our Northern editor, Freya McClements.

The 80-page document, Safeguarding the Union, was released online by the UK government on Wednesday afternoon.

The measures outlined in the document by the UK government include, as previously signalled, legislation “affirming Northern Ireland’s constitutional position in the Union” and which amends the UK Internal Market Act 2020 to “guarantee Northern Ireland’s unfettered access to the UK’s internal market”.

It will also end dynamic alignment with EU law.

Legislative change will “recognise the end of the automatic pipeline of EU law”; Section 7A of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will be amended, “reflecting the new reality that the law which applies in Northern Ireland is now properly subject to the democratic oversight of the Northern Ireland Assembly through the Stormont brake and the democratic consent mechanism.”

The so-called green lane will be replaced with a UK internal market system, and the UK government “will commit that more than 80 per cent of all freight movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland take place under the UK internal market system, with independent scrutiny.”

This will ensure “there will be no checks when goods move within the UK internal market system save those conducted by UK authorities as part of a risk-based or intelligence-led approach to tackle criminality, abuse of the scheme, smuggling and disease risks.”

There will be a legal requirement that new legislation will be “assessed as to whether it impacts on trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and, if so, for ministers to make a statement considering any impacts on the operation of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK’s internal market.”

The document includes more than 20 provisions, which include the creation of an Independent Monitoring Panel to “provide oversight of the implementation of new arrangements”, the creation of a UK East-West Council and the publication of operational arrangements for the Stormont brake.

The UK government will also “pursue an agreement with the EU on a long-term basis” to ensure the continued supply of necessary veterinary medicines in Northern Ireland beyond 2025.


Jeffrey Donaldson has been giving more details of the deal worked out between the EU and the UK over the Northern Ireland protocol.

He said: “At the moment EU law automatically applies to Northern Ireland, whether it is a change to EU law or a new EU law. Under the protocol we had no say, the Assembly was not consulted on that, there was no democratic scrutiny in Northern Ireland of those laws, they just automatically applied. These new arrangements end that.

“Article 7A of the Withdrawal Act, which is a UK law, will be amended to end the automatic pipeline of EU law applying to Northern Ireland. What that means, we will have new democratic scrutiny mechanisms in the Assembly.

“The Assembly will be able to scrutinise any new laws that are coming forward. Assembly members will be able to say if they think that law is going to be harmful to Northern Ireland and our ability to trade, in other words divergence.

“The Assembly will be able to say no, that law should not apply in Northern Ireland and the UK Government has the right to veto that law on behalf of Northern Ireland.

“There is a new process that is being put in place that ends the dynamic alignment of EU law in Northern Ireland.”


Today marks four years since the UK finally left the EU. Boris Johnson, then prime minister, has been out today and in bullish form in relation to the benefits (or otherwise) of Brexit. He tweeted: “Four years on from Brexit we celebrate the restoration of this country’s democratic power to make its own laws and rules.

“With those Brexit freedoms we have introduced improved standards for animal welfare, cut taxes on sanitary products, created greater flexibility for cutting edge industries from financial services to bioscience, done many global free trade deals – and it was at least partly thanks to Brexit that this country had the fastest covid vaccine roll-out in Europe.

“We must retain the appetite and the courage to diverge from the low-growth high-regulation European model. We must at all costs avoid a return to anything remotely like the disastrous ‘Chequers’ formula whereby artificial concerns about the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland are used to keep the whole of the UK in alignment with EU rules.”


DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said his deal with the UK government guaranteed that all goods manufactured in Northern Ireland would be available for sale in the rest of the UK.

He said: “EU law applies where you are manufacturing goods in Northern Ireland and those goods are sold to the EU.

“If you are manufacturing goods to sell them to the United States of America, you make them to American standards.

“Businesses in Northern Ireland, if all they do is sell their goods to Great Britain then their goods will be fully acceptable in Great Britain. The Government has guaranteed that.

“There is a new goods guarantee built into these new arrangements that goods manufactured in Northern Ireland will always be available for sale in Great Britain.”



Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill has refused to disclose whether she would prefer working with a British Labour government or Tory government.

Speaking after her meeting with Tánaiste Micheál Martin, Ms O’Neill said the Assembly election held two years ago shows the “change” across the island’s political landscape.

She said: “I will work with whoever wants to come at it with an attitude of fair play, work with whoever wants to respect the Good Friday Agreement, and I will work with anybody who wants to deliver good public services.

“Regardless of who occupies the government in Britain, I would expect from them – whether it’s Labour or Tories, who unfortunately have failed on this on so many occasions – to respect the Good Friday Agreement.

“There is no doubt the Assembly election two years ago demonstrated the change that is happening right across our island and there is no doubt that there is a healthy conversation about constitutional change. I think that is something we should all embrace and be very relaxed about having a conversation about the future.

“I don’t see any contradiction of pursuing our ideological beliefs that are set out in the Good Friday Agreement,” Ms O’Neill said.

“My priority for today is the Executive and getting it back up and running. We can do the two things at the one time.”


Our former Northern editor Gerry Moriarty profiles the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson who has been dubbed the “man behind the wire” for live tweeting the DUP meeting on Monday night. Allegedly, somebody within the meeting was wearing a wire and the information was being fed back to Bryson. However, as Moriarty points out, the tactic may have backfired on Bryson.


Tánaiste Micheál Martin has praised DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson’s “leadership” in persuading his party to return to Stormont.

Mr Martin, who is in Belfast to meet the party leaders, said the Irish Government has “no issue” with streamlining and ensuring a seamless passage of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Martin praised Mr Donaldson’s “leadership”, saying he has opened a path to a functioning Executive and Assembly.

“We’ll await the publication of the documents today by the British government,” Mr Martin added.

“I think it would be prudent to to examine those and we will do that. The British government and the European Union have worked hard to address many of the practical concerns about the outworking of Brexit and Northern Ireland.

“We need to move forward for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland in terms of economy, in terms of jobs, in terms of public services.”


My name is Ronan McGreevy and I will be covering the liveblog today. If you have any comments or observations, I can be found at and on Twitter/X at @rmcgreevy1301


Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has said he had a “good meeting” with Micheál Martin in Belfast.

Mr Beattie said he told the Tánaiste about how the Ulster Unionists have been “kept out” of discussions in relation to the agreement between the DUP and the British Government.

He added: “We had a long conversation in regards to legacy, I reiterated the point I have made many times is that the Irish Government needs to do more in regards to legacy. They haven’t done enough.”

Mr Beattie added: “I think everybody is pretty comfortable with what the deal is. I don’t think anybody is concerned. I think everything that is going to happen is going to happen within the confines of what has already been agreed in regards to the Windsor Framework.

“What we are really talking about is the application of the Windsor Framework and certain things that may well change,” he said.

“I think Sinn Féin have known about this since last year and they are not jumping up and down, the European Commission is not jumping up and down, the Irish Government is not jumping up and down. So it tells you that it falls within an agreed framework.”


Speaking on Tuesday, following meetings with other Stormont parties, Mr Donaldson said the deal would represent a “significant change” in addressing unionist concerns over Brexit’s Irish Sea border.

He said: “On checks, on goods, moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and staying within the UK there will no longer by physical checks, identity checks, save where, as is normal in any part of the UK there is a suspicion of smuggling, of criminal activity; that is the same for every part of the United Kingdom.

“On customs paperwork, customs declarations, supplementary declarations, will be gone.”

Sinn Féin has focused on the imminent return of the Stormont Assembly, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald stating that Irish unity is now within “touching distance” as she hailed the significance of her party assuming the role of the North’s First Minister for the first time.

Ms McDonald said the expected appointment of her party colleague Michelle O’Neill into the job in the coming days would be a moment of “very great significance”.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said he would publish the Government’s proposals on Wednesday.

He added: “I believe that all the conditions are now in place for the assembly to return.”

Mr Donaldson announced his support for a Stormont return after receiving the “decisive” backing of the 130-strong party executive during a five-hour meeting on Monday night. – PA


The DUP leader said people are already beginning to see the benefits of the deal his party has struck with the UK government.

Mr Donaldson also predicted the green lane element of the Windsor Framework “will go” as he expressed hope that the Stormont powersharing institutions can be restored within days.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said her party is satisfied that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has not been damaged or undermined by the DUP deal over post-Brexit trading arrangements. – PA