Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to address DUP executive on Monday

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to address DUP executive on Monday thumbnail

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson outside Hillsborough Castle (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA Wire

The DUP’s executive has been summoned for a meeting with their leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson on Monday, amid speculation that the party is inching closer to a deal with the UK Government over post-Brexit trading arrangements, which could see them return to devolved government.

In an invite seen by the PA news agency, DUP party executive members were invited to register for a short-notice meeting at 7pm on Monday.

It says that Sir Jeffrey “wishes to provide a detailed update on the current political situation”.

The DUP has stayed out of the institutions at Stormont for almost two years in an effort to force the Government to act on unionist concerns over the impact of the Windsor Framework on the union.

The party has been criticised for its stance both by those frustrated at the effective collapsing of Stormont, and those within the wider unionist movement, claiming it has not achieved enough to protect Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.

Earlier this week, Sir Jeffrey said he has faced threats, and also urged others against opposing a deal that has yet to be agreed.

A DUP spokesperson said: “We do not comment on internal meetings.”

DUP MLA Edwin Poots told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show on Friday that his party has been working “extremely hard” to resolve the impasse.

“That piece of work continues,” he added.

He declined to comment on what happened at a meeting of the party officers last Friday, amid speculation there had been a planned vote on its deal with the Government, saying he respects the press statements that are put out.

The party said that evening that it was continuing to engage with the UK Government, and would not “give a running commentary on our position”.

“There is a course of work that has been done thus far and that’s a course of work that is ongoing and we are determined to bring that to a conclusion,” Mr Poots said.

“Some people are wondering about this but you will just have to wait and see what the party puts out in terms of its press releases on what happened at various meetings.

“The DUP is working constructively to try to find solutions to all of this.”

He also criticised some other unionists who have accused the DUP of being “traitors”.

“Why would we have done what we’ve done for the last two years and go back with nothing, and people should reflect on that,” he said.

Meanwhile he described reports that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak might offer to voluntarily limit divergence from EU rules in the future, to limit the impact of an Irish Sea trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, as just “one element” of a prospective deal.

“That would be a win but on its own it wouldn’t be any use, if people thought that is what was on offer, that wouldn’t be acceptable on its own,” he said.

“It would be one element of progress that in itself wouldn’t carry anything.”