LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) – Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British party could back a new proposal to solve post-Brexit trading difficulties between the province and Britain as part of a long-term solution, Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said on Tuesday.

The DUP has been at odds with the government since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed a new deal with the European Union earlier this year, which London said eased trade between Northern Ireland and Britain and firmly rooted the province’s place in the United Kingdom.

The DUP has not returned to Northern Ireland’s devolved executive since February 2022, rejecting the first post-Brexit deal with the EU and then the second, so-called Windsor Framework, which is due to be introduced later this year.

Donaldson said he was still awaiting a response from the government on his proposals to fix the problems caused by the Windsor Framework, but that a report by the Centre for Brexit Policy could form a basis for a longer-term solution.

“We are very clear that the Windsor Framework does not meet our seven tests. We’ve put proposals to the government that we believe would address those concerns, we’ll see what the government come back with,” he told a press conference.

“I’ve made clear we need to find a longer-term solution to this problem and … mutual enforcement, we believe, would meet the requirements that we’ve set down for that longer-term solution.”

He said there could be potential for his party to return to the power-sharing government, but that London would have to accept the proposal of the mutual enforcement of trading rules and then it would have to win the backing of the EU.

The DUP has criticised the government’s post-Brexit deals for the province since former Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed the so-called Northern Ireland protocol in order to secure a Brexit divorce and wider trade deal with Brussels.

It says that deal, and the subsequent one, have put a question mark over Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom after the province effectively remained in the EU single market for goods to preserve an open border with bloc member Ireland.

That put an effective border in the Irish Sea, and the new report suggested instead Britain should launch a system of mutual enforcement of import and export regulations and standards at a so-called invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The proposal’s supporters said London could act unilaterally, but even they raised doubts over whether the government would move to a new negotiating position just months after it had won the Windsor Framework deal.

The government has said the Windsor Framework solves most of the post-Brexit trade problems and that it has no plans to renegotiate it. Instead it is trying to offer the DUP legal guarantees to protect post-Brexit trade with the province. (Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Christina Fincher)


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