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DUP reverts to type on latest Brexit agreement

Party signals it will vote against the Windsor framework designed to boost trade and the local economy

The Stormont brake part of the new Windsor framework agreement, which allows the Northern Ireland Assembly to object to new EU rules, was, according to insiders, specifically designed to do two things. First to address unionist concerns about not having a say in EU rules that might apply to trade in the North in the post-Brexit era. Second, to force the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) back into powersharing.

The party has blocked the functioning of the powersharing government at Stormont for more than a year in protest at the Northern Ireland protocol, the Windsor framework’s predecessor.

Without taking part, the DUP couldn’t exercise the brake. Under the mechanism, 30 Assembly members, from two or more parties, can pause new EU legislation applying in Northern Ireland. It appeared to kill two birds at once and was widely praised as a clever inclusion in the UK’s latest Brexit agreement with the EU, simultaneously removing economic red tape while recognising political sensibilities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t enough for the DUP. The party signalled yesterday it will vote against the Windsor framework in the first of a series of votes in the UK parliament. MPs will be given a chance to vote on the Stormont brake on Wednesday.


“There remain for us concerns, for example, and the Stormont brake deals with the application of EU law in Northern Ireland, but it doesn’t address how are we dealing with change to UK law, which could impact on Northern Ireland’s ability to trade within the United Kingdom itself,” DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC.

Donaldson said he would continue to work with the UK government on “outstanding issues”.

However, a spokesman for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said he had no plans for change the agreement though he was ready to reassure the largest unionist party over the deal with the European Union to smooth post-Brexit trade.

It’s hard to weigh up if this is just the DUP being the DUP (objecting, stalling before gradually acquiescing) or something more problematic that might lead to further political and economic stalemate in the North.

The party believes it has won crucial concessions by opposing successive proposals to break a deadlock that business says is harming their prospects and the wider local economy. But it is not obvious this time where any concessions will come from.