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Speculation on Northern Ireland protocol deal premature, DUP leader says

file photo: northern ireland's dup to publish election manifesto, in craigavon
File photo: DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

Speculation that a long-standing dispute between Britain and the European Union over the Northern Ireland protocol is close to being resolved is a little premature, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party told Reuters on Wednesday.

A new deal to resolve the dispute between Britain and the bloc over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading rules could be announced in the coming weeks, according to several media reports, with the Financial Times saying Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will discuss the deal with leaders in Germany this weekend.

Britain says talks are continuing, with no deal yet reached.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British party, has boycotted power-sharing with Irish nationalists in the region’s devolved parliament over opposition to the current protocol.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, whose opinion will be crucial if Sunak tries to win support for any deal, has said that political institutions will remain paralysed in the province if there is no agreement unionists can support.

“I think the speculation is a wee bit ahead of time,” Donaldson told Reuters when asked about the protocol on Wednesday.

Last month Britain and the EU agreed a way forward on sharing live data, a step towards resolving the protocol issue.

Another major issue in talks is whether the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has a role in trade disputes.

Following reports that Britain had conceded that the ECJ would retain some role, Conservative lawmaker David Jones said the protocol question “won’t be resolved unless the automatic application of EU law and the jurisdiction of the ECJ in NI both come to an end.”

“Cosmetic changes just won’t work,” he said in a tweet.

Asked about the protocol talks, a British government spokesperson said that the priority was to preserve “political stability in Northern Ireland and the UK internal market.”

“Any solution must address the full range of issues the Protocol is causing in Northern Ireland,” the spokesperson said.

“We are currently engaging in intensive scoping talks with the EU to find solutions to these problems.”

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