DUP Leader Meeting US President Joe Biden To Discuss Windsor Framework
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP)
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), is expected to have face-to-face discussions with US President Joe Biden in Washington later this week as his party continues to weigh up whether to endorse Rishi Sunak's Windsor framework deal.
Donaldson and other DUP figures have travelled to Capitol Hill for a week of meetings with US politicians, culminating in celebrations to mark St Patrick's Day later on Friday.
They are preparing to attend a reception hosted by the Irish Embassy in the US on Thursday, where Biden is expected to be present, PoliticsHome understands.
The DUP delegation is also set to attend a White House reception where Donaldson and Biden will have an opportunity to discuss the party's stance on the Northern Ireland Protocol deal agreed last month by the UK and European Union, and which is supported by the US.
They will also meet with UK ambassador to the US Dame Karen Pierce during their visit, as well as members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The DUP is yet to deliver its final verdict on the Windsor framework, which Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced late last month.
In what the government has hailed a major negotiating victory, the UK and EU have agreed to remove the vast majority of checks on goods leaving Great Britain for Northern Ireland, and give politicians in Stormont the ability to block the imposition of new EU regulations in the region.
Sunak hopes the terms of the deal will be enough to persuade the DUP to return to Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, after the party collapsed the institutions early last year in protest against the post-Brexit treaty for trade across the Irish Sea in its original form.
There are hopes that the DUP will return to power-sharing before the anniversary of the peace deal on 10 April, but that timeframe currently looks heavily in doubt.
There are some DUP politicians including Westminster MPs Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley and Jim Shannon who believe the Windsor framework does not go far enough to guarantee Northern Ireland's place in the UK, and are pushing the party to reject it.
Donaldson, who with the party's MLAs in Belfast is believed to be more minded to consider the agreement, has assembled an eight-person panel to assess the details before reporting back in early April. The panel is comprised of DUP and unionist political figures like former party leaders Dame Arlene Foster and Peter Robinson.
The party wants to secure further guarantees from the government regarding Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market before agreeing to back the Windsor framework, which Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton Harris has said will be delivered in legislation.
The DUP may also push for more funding the Northern Ireland, akin to the financial settlement it secured in 2017 as part of its confidence-and-supply deal with ex-PM Theresa May.
In a new statement today, his most detailed remarks on the deal so far, Donaldson said that while the Windsor deal represents "significant progress", there "remains key areas of concern which require further clarification, re-working and change". The party has opened talks with the government about addressing them, he added.
On Monday Biden confirmed that it was his "intention" to visit Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland next month to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, following an invite from Rishi Sunak during a summit in San Diego to announce the AUKUS pact.
"Twenty-five years? It seems like yesterday", Biden said.
He spoke alongside Sunak and Australian PM Anthony Albanese, where the three leaders announced details of a new nuclear submarine agreement between their countries.
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