This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

Northern Ireland Stormont with 'closed' painted on ground in front of entrance

Prime minister Rishi Sunak last week told the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to back his Windsor Framework deal and make a devolved government in Northern Ireland work, or face the prospect of a united Ireland

Speaking at the end of a three-day Queen’s University, Belfast event to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Sunak urged the DUP to get Stormont up and running again.

“That’s the right thing to do on its own terms, and I’m convinced it’s also the right thing to do for our Union,” he said, the Telegraph reports.

The DUP has boycotted power sharing in Northern Ireland over its opposition to post-Brexit checks on goods moving from Britain and refused to back Sunak’s Windsor Framework deal agreed with the EU to alleviate checks.

Unworkable framework

Sunak insisted the Windsor Framework does address the DUP’s concerns over sovereignty and trade, reports RTE.

Acknowledging that it was “far from perfect” to be marking the anniversary of the Good Friday agreement at a time when Stormont is in abeyance, Sunak said it should be “a source of profound concern” that “the institutions have been down for nine of the last 25 years”.

However, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that re-establishing the Northern Ireland Assembly meant “fully restoring Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom”.

“We must get the foundations right,” he said. “Short-term fixes will lead to short-term devolution and will do a disservice to those trying to make the institutions work.”

DUP resists

The DUP remained unconvinced by calls from former and current leaders from London, Dublin, Brussels and Washington to go back into regional government, reports Politico.

Former US president Bill Clinton, former British PM Tony Blair, former Irish PM Bertie Ahern and the US peace envoy who helped birth the Good Friday deal, George Mitchell, all encouraged all Northern Ireland parties to get back to government.

Clinton told Donaldson that the Windsor Framework was “about the best deal you could get”.

Investment opportunities

According to Washington’s special trade envoy, Joe Kennedy III, US businesses want to invest in Northern Ireland due to its unique access to both the UK and EU single markets, but they first want to see stable government restored.

“Northern Ireland has an awful lot to offer,” he said. “If it didn’t, you wouldn’t see 230 American companies here. They chose to be here. They didn’t have to choose to be here, they did.”

The FT reports that Kennedy said US companies employ 30,000 people in Northern Ireland, including high-profile tech firms such as Seagate, whose components are in a third of the world’s computers.