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DUP has ‘promised’ Liz Truss they will return to Stormont once protocol sorted, claims Sammy Wilson

The DUP has “promised” the Foreign Secretary they will go back into Stormont once the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol is addressed.

It comes after Liz Truss earlier told the BBC earlier she expects the institutions here to be “up and running” and when asked how soon the DUP should return to the Assembly, said the party should return “as soon as possible”.

Ms Truss told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster the Good Friday Agreement is being “undermined” by the post-Brexit trading arrangements and said the government are not “ripping up the protocol” but argued they were “changing elements... that don’t work”.

The minister said the UK Government expects the institutions here to be “up and running” and when asked how soon the DUP should return to the Assembly, said the party should return “as soon as possible”.

Responding to her, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said the party has “spoken to her personally” and “given her an assurance” they want the Executive functioning.

He said Ms Truss can “hardly expect us to operate in a system that expects us to deliver on the protocol” and said the party plan to “observe” what will happen to the Bill on the issue.

Legislation around overriding parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol was tabled on Monday, with the DUP having previously confirmed they will not return to Stormont until the matter is resolved.

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The party has not given any specific timetable for when they may act to allow the nomination of a Speaker, something they have opposed up until now.

“If it got through the House of Commons without a great deal of controversy... that would auger better for the process through the House of Lords. Then of course we would reassess our position.

“That is a promise we have given to the government.

“You would criticise me if given the experience we have had, with broken promises... [if we said] we are just accepting it all on face value and we are going back into Stormont.

“We have already given that commitment publicly and privately to the government. The government knows without a shadow of a doubt that once the issue of the protocol is addressed, then we will be back into government.”

Legislation to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol had to be tabled by the UK because of the political situation at Stormont, according to the Foreign Secretary.

Northern Ireland is currently without a powersharing government in Stormont following the recent Assembly election last month, after the DUP refused to nominate a Speaker due to their opposition to the protocol.

When asked about his party’s timetable for returning to Stormont after the Bill was tabled in Westminster on Monday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the move was “real progress” but said his party needs to “see the Bill moving forward”.

“I think this is real progress,” he said.

“I am committed to restoring the political institutions. We will do that [nominate a Speaker] when we believe we have made sufficient progress and we can be sure this Bill is going to go through Parliament.”

Asked if this could be before the Assembly summer recess, Mr Donaldson refused to be drawn on the specifics and claimed the DUP would “make our judgements based on the Bill going forward”.

“There is a choice here for Parliament. It is a stark choice in many ways.

“There is no place for the protocol and Good Friday or Belfast Agreement together. Parliament has a choice, it can either choose to go forward with the agreement... or the protocol. But it can’t have both.”

Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill said the UK Government's actions were a "straight up, slam dunk breach of an international agreement".

She told RTE: "It undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and their actions will have huge economic consequences because the reality is, and everybody bar the DUP and bar Boris Johnson knows, that the protocol is working.

"It's given us an economic advantage. Our economy is outperforming that of Britain and that's I think what they want to hide in this.

"Boris Johnson's action yesterday is just completely reckless, and serves to create more instability and serves to create more uncertainty for businesses for planning for the future."

Criticism of the unilateral action by the British Government has also included both the European Union and Irish Government – with both sides warning of consequences.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said the UK Government's legislation would dismantle the protocol.

"What the British Government is proposing to do is dismantle the protocol, which is international law, which was carefully put together over a number of years through painstaking negotiation involving this British Prime Minister to solve or to manage the disruption of Brexit on the island of Ireland as best we could,” he told BBC NI.

"The British Government is now looking to undermine all of that work for whatever political reason.

"But it is being warned from Ireland, from all EU capitals, from the European Commission, from the White House, all of Britain's friends are effectively saying please don't do this.

"A majority of people in Northern Ireland, where 52 of the 90 MLAs wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday to say please don't do this.

"Business leaders in Northern Ireland and business leaders in the UK have said please don't do this.

"It is going to destabilise what is already a difficult situation and instead focus on negotiations with the EU who want to compromise and want to respond to unionist concerns."

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