Stormont: Sir Jeffrey says DUP approaching a decisionPublished1 hour agoShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, PA MediaImage caption, The DUP has been involved in talks to restore the executive, which have also been met with protests by trade unionsBy Jayne McCormackBBC News NI political correspondentThe DUP is “approaching the time” for a decision on returning to Stormont, its leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said. The party walked out of government 22 months ago in protest at post-Brexit trade arrangements in NI.It has been involved in talks with the government aimed at reaching a deal to allow power sharing to be revived.”I haven’t come this far to plan for failure,” said Sir Jeffrey, adding that the final stages of a negotiation could be “the most challenging”. “We’ve made significant progress… there are still some we’re engaged with the government on but undoubtedly we’re approaching the time when we will be able to examine where we’ve got to, the progress that’s been made and perhaps come to some decisions,” he told Good Morning Ulster. On Wednesday, RTE reported that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told his party he believed a deal could be done “within days”, but Sir Jeffrey dismissed that as “speculation” and said he had not provided a timeline to anyone. Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Rishi Sunak made the comments in the Commons on WednesdayEarlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government stood ready to legislate to “protect” Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market. He said such a move would sit alongside a deal to restore the Northern Ireland Executive and added the government was prepared to work “at pace” to achieve this.His comments came in response to a question by Sir Jeffrey, who asked the government to amend the UK Internal Market Act to “guarantee and future-proof” Northern Ireland’s access to the UK internal market “in all scenarios”.The DUP leader said he was “refining” those issues with the government. Any deal will need the approval of the DUP’s officers who run the party and hold influence over its policy decisions. Sir Jeffrey said no meeting of officers was planned for Thursday.He said he didn’t know if it would be possible to reach an agreement by the time of the Christmas recess on Tuesday, adding: “We’re not yet at the end of the process. Of course I want to get an outcome as soon as possible but I want it to be the right outcome because we don’t want to be in this position again in six months’ time.”Image source, HOLLIE ADAMS/ReutersImage caption, Chris Heaton-Harris said he will go back to the prime minister and see what more is possibleTalks extendedTalks between the government and Northern Ireland’s largest political parties over a new £2.5bn financial package were extended on Wednesday.The package would include a lump sum to settle public sector pay claims and a new “needs-based” funding formula for public services.It would also allow overspends from last year and this year to be repaid over five years.However Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has said he is prepared to go back to the prime minister and see what more is possible, after party leaders asked for more money.Talks between government and parties extendedAs it happened: Parties’ reaction to £2.5bn offerWhat is in the funding deal?Northern Ireland has been without devolved government since February 2022, when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) withdrew support as part of its boycott of post-Brexit rules overseeing trade in and out of Northern Ireland.Government in Northern Ireland requires the largest unionist and nationalist parties to share power in a coalition government.Without the DUP’s support, the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed, leading to senior civil servants running government departments instead of ministers.Westminster’s announcement of a financial package came as Northern Ireland’s five main parties met Heaton-Harris for the first roundtable talks since July.Parties have had three days of talks at Hillsborough Castle, centred around financial issues.Related TopicsDUP (Democratic Unionist Party)Sir Jeffrey DonaldsonMore on this storyTalks between government and parties are extendedPublished12 hours agoSame decade, same approach – different outcome?Published1 day agoUK government offers £2.5bn for Stormont returnPublished2 days agoWhat’s in NI’s new offer to fund public services?Published1 day ago

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