Northern Ireland Protocol: What has the DUP reaction been so far to the Prime Minister's 'Windsor Framework'?

It could be days, perhaps longer, before the DUP takes a formal stance on the Prime Minister’s Protocol deal, which he has dubbed the “Windsor Framework”.
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Whether or not the party is won over by Rishi Sunak’s efforts will be the key to reviving Stormont, which has been down for over a year due to a DUP boycott (though it was down for three years before that due to a Sinn Fein walkout).

One of the DUP’s key gripes has been the inclusion of Northern Ireland under the umbrella of single market rules, which it considers a betrayal of Brexit which the government would never have accepted for GB.

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The Twitter account Best for Britain quipped: “Sunak in Belfast emphasises what ‘a hugely privileged position’ it is to have access to both EU and UK markets, and how it is definitely worth the relatively small trade-off of following some Brussels regulation. Why not extend this ‘fantastic deal’ to the whole country? Oh. ~AA”

So what has the party actually said to date on the deal?

As of TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, here are some of the principal takes.


There have been, so far, two official statements, issued as press releases from DUP party HQ.

The DUP logoThe DUP logo
The DUP logo

Here is the first, at 5pm on Monday, in the name of Sir Jeffrey Donaldson:

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“In broad terms it is clear that significant progress has been secured across a number of areas whilst also recognising there remain key issues of concern.

"There can be no disguising the fact that in some sectors of our economy EU law remains applicable in Northern Ireland.

"The DUP will want to study the detail of what has been published today as well as examining the detail of any and all underpinning legal texts. Where necessary we stand ready to engage with the Government in order to seek further clarification, re-working or change as required.

Rishi Sunak and Chris Heaton-Harris separated by a wall of Coca-Cola at the drinks plant in LisburnRishi Sunak and Chris Heaton-Harris separated by a wall of Coca-Cola at the drinks plant in Lisburn
Rishi Sunak and Chris Heaton-Harris separated by a wall of Coca-Cola at the drinks plant in Lisburn

"Ultimately the party will now assess all these proposed outcomes and arrangements against our seven tests, outlined in our 2022 Assembly Election Manifesto, to determine whether what has been published meet our tests and whether it respects and restores Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.”

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And today another press release arrived, this time from Gregory Campbell.

“Whilst the Windsor Framework needs to be carefully considered and scrutinised, evidently progress has been made, particularly in the trading area, this progress would never have been achieved if we had all listened to the pro-protocol parties who dismissed our calls for change and instead called for its rigorous implementation,” he said.

In between, strongly anti-Protocol MP Sammy Wilson was on Newsnight late on Monday.


On that show, junior Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker described the deal is “a triumph, it’s restored NI to the Union on a range of issues... and it’s delivered the Stormont brake – it’s terrific for all those reasons”.

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Asked if he agreed with this, Sammy Wilson said: "No, I don’t. I’m surprised at Steve.

"Steve would not accept the arrangements which would pertain and will continue to pertain in Northern Ireland for his constituency.”

He added that “hundreds of thousands of pages of EU law will still apply to Northern Ireland”.

“There will be border control posts built in NI [and] EU law will continue to apply to Northern Ireland.

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"We will look at the legal text… [but] it is quite clear NI will be still subject to EU law.

"That will present two future dangers.

"1) New EU laws will make NI further diverge from the rest of the UK, causing problems.

“2) The UK, as it changes laws, will cause divergence as well.

"And the two solutions he’s suggested will not work. The first one is this Stormont Brake.

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"The Stormont brake is not a brake which NI politicians will apply. It's a brake which he and the UK government will ultimately have to apply by vetoing that law in a joint committee.”

The presenter then asserted that this was inaccurate.

"No,” said Mr Wilson. “I’m not going to let you away with giving wrong information.

"It states quite clearly: it starts with 30 MLAs objecting to some laws – not all laws. They have to have a ‘substantial impact’, however that’s measured.

"And secondly, once they’ve been voted on by MLAs, it’s up to the UK government to decide whether those laws are vetoed, in discussions with the EU.

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"And the EU has the right to respond and take action against that.

"Given the reluctance of the UK government to engage in any trade war with the EU, it's very unlikely that veto will ever be used.

"So it’s not a Stormont lock. It’s a UK government lock.

"And a lock which I don't believe they’ll ever use…

"We will not go into power-sharing whilst we are required to implement laws and regulations which we believe are going to take NI out of the UK.”


On Monday evening, Ian Paisley told GB News he deal “I think it falls someway short in satisfying those tests – that’s my gut instinct”.

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He added: “Therefore whilst the Prime Minister continues to have a protocol effectively that’ll be still in operation, that’ll effectively still see ECJ rule in NI, that’ll still see us subject to single market rules as opposed to fully UK rules.

"Unfortunately that means that power-sharing doesn’t look like it’s coming back any time soon.”

However he added that “we will look at the legal text and study it thoroughly” before Sir Jeffrey gives a final answer.

As far as the so-called Stormont Brake goes, Mr Paisley said it was subject to caveats making it almost useless.

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He likened it to having a handbrake under the spare wheel in the boot of a car, adding: “If a handbrake is out of reach and impossible to use, it's not a handbrake.”

••• COWS AS PETS •••

On Monday night, during a late sitting of the House of Commons, DUP MPs also took the opportunity to vent their concerns.

Paul Girvan, South Antrim MP, said: “I just want to ask the Prime Minister about the green and red lanes. I enter a country and I always see a border.

"At a border, there are green and red lanes, and I still have the perception that I am at a border, because of what I can see, irrespective of being told that there are green and red lanes, and that does cause concern.

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“There is another aspect that I have real concern about. I am glad that this is called a framework and that it is not an agreement as such.

"A framework is something that has to be built and added to whereas an agreement is something that is written in stone and cannot be changed, which is what we were told about the so-called protocol deal – those who wanted to change it were told that they could not...

“I have many agricultural businesses in my constituency that took cattle backwards and forwards to mainland GB for shows or for sale.

"I hear today that they might be better to call a cow one of their pets, so that they can bring it back.

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"I want to ensure that that does not happen and that we are allowed to bring back our cattle and everything else. Any involvement in the ECJ is also a major concern for me, because it means that I am still operating under laws that I have had no control about bringing forward.”


And Jim Shannon, Strangford MP, said: “The right hon. Gentleman is my Prime Minister, so I say this with great respect: this is about more than just solar panels and sausages.

"It is crucial that the Windsor framework that he has referred to does not become the Windsor knot for us Unionists in Northern Ireland.

"Does he understand that any deal must include the cessation of European Court of Justice interference in UK sovereignty – in other words, the real power must lie with Westminster, not Brussels – the cessation of the state aid prohibition, and the cessation of customs protocols within the UK that are determined by Europe, and must respect the seven tests set by the DUP and supported by the majority of Unionists in Northern Ireland?

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"The Prime Minister can strike no deal, ever, without bringing the majority of Unionists on board.

"Pushing another deal through this House without Unionist buy-in will offer no result other than another failed deal.”