DUP chief welcomes ‘change of tone’ on Northern Ireland protocol from EU leaders


Jeffrey Donaldson hailed the EU’s “change of tone” on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP chief made the comment following a meeting with the Taoiseach in Belfast on Friday.

They discussed the bloc’s latest proposals to resolve the protocol impasse.

European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic announced on Thursday that the EU would present “very ambitious” proposals within the next fortnight.

“I am delighted with the change in tone, I am delighted with the change in the language used. People are now solutions oriented.

“They are now talking about negotiations. All of these things weren’t on the table even three months ago, ”Donaldson said.

“I think our actions have put more emphasis on the need to find a solution which removes the Irish maritime border and restores Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.”

He said there were lingering concerns around the protocol and there was a need to remove the border from the Irish Sea so that companies “can resume normal trading relationships.”

Speaking about his meeting with Micheál Martin, the DUP chief said they discussed the potential for increased cooperation between political leaders on both sides of the border.

“We talked about the North-South relationship in the current context, then the potential I think, if we can fix the issues around the protocol and see that Irish Sea border removed, then the potential to look at how we can increase cooperation in areas of mutual interest to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, ”he added.

Northern Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill also met with Mr Martin to discuss the EU’s olive branch on Brexit.

Ms O’Neill said the cross-border meeting came “at a very important time”.

“The EU has indicated that it will prepare papers to find solutions.

“I think what the people here want, what the business world here wants, what the farmers want here is certainty and stability.

“I think the way to achieve this is for the EU and the UK government to work on the outstanding issues and find solutions,” she said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill has joined the cross-border talks (Liam McBurney / PA)

“This is really what I want to talk to the Taoiseach about, obviously aside from the question of the current political situation here in the north, with the DUP threatening to topple the Assembly and the Executive while the rest of us tries to get on the treatment of issues which are important and which weigh heavily on the spirits.

She said common issues include recovery from Covid.

Ms O’Neill also criticized the DUP’s failure to engage in the North-South Ministerial Council.

“First of all, it is unacceptable that the DUP does not attend the North-South council meetings,” she said.

“They can’t choose which parts of our peace agreement they want to work on.

“Deirdre Hargey, the minister who was scheduled to hold a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council last week, is now seeking legal advice and will take legal action for breach of the ministerial code.

“I think this meeting today is very important, it’s an ongoing engagement with the Taoiseach around issues of importance, especially given the implications of Brexit in recent years, trying to find solutions and trying to find a way forward.

“I think it is appropriate that we are having these discussions with them.”


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