From Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP <[email protected]>
Subject Securing progress for the long-term
Date December 16, 2023 10:12 AM
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Good morning John

This week there has been a significant focus on the discussions taking place on the state of public finances in Northern Ireland when the Secretary of State convened meetings at Hillsborough Castle. These talks are separate from our ongoing negotiations with the Government to restore Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom and its internal market.

For some years we have campaigned against the inherent unfairness of being underfunded and we have argued consistently that Northern Ireland should be funded according to need. The Fiscal Council and others have independently validated that Northern Ireland is currently underfunded – the so-called Barnett squeeze. Yet, it was the DUP that took the lead in making clear that Stormont could only be restored on a financially sustainable basis alongside the requirement to secure a deal that restores and protects the Union. Others would have been back long ago without any of these requirements being met.

We were the first party to point out how our vital public services cannot be provided in a way that delivers for all unless there is a change in the formula that calculates the amount of money Northern Ireland receives compared to other regions of the United Kingdom. My colleague Gavin Robinson MP has time after time led for us on these matters.

That situation can only change when we secure a new long-term funding model for Northern Ireland that is needs-based. Additionally, I have been making the argument that any future Northern Ireland Executive must be able to deliver on transforming our health system, a focus on getting waiting lists down, investing in our schools for the benefit of the next generation, and be able to help hard-pressed families with childcare. In all our discussions with the Government the DUP five-point plan, endorsed by voters, has been my blueprint.

I want to acknowledge that progress has been made on restructuring how we are funded. However, whilst publicising and briefing out total numbers may seem a clever and well-worn presentational device, it does not detract from the reality that if we are to secure future transformation, much more will be required. This is an argument rooted in fairness.

While some have focused on adding the numbers on the pages given to the parties by Government, we know that much of what is proposed does not deal with our long-term challenges. More work will be required and I have no doubt the Government will want to advance on their offer on Monday. They will ultimately need to move on a substantive change to our funding formula.

Public sector workers deserve a fair pay rise. They should not be used as pawns and regardless of our wider, and separate, political negotiations with the Government the Secretary of State is going to have to fund public sector pay and not just for one year!

While we know the importance of having our public finances on a secure long-term footing, an adequate financial package from the Treasury does not fix the constitutional and economic issues arising from the Protocol. In negotiations with the Government across a range of issues, we have been able to identify legislative measures and potential actions that would be in keeping with our negotiating objectives. This is important work and we will not allow ourselves to be distracted by hype, spin and sometimes ill-founded claims as we seek to deliver long-term solutions, measured against the tests in our manifesto, and that work for Northern Ireland and our place within the United Kingdom.

It is only because of the action taken by the Democratic Unionist Party that there is a focus on all these matters. Others, given the chance, would have either buried their heads in the sand and hoped somehow to deliver change from within, or actively worked to prevent such change.

We are continuing to work to deliver a package of new arrangements that will respect Northern Ireland’s constitutional position and our entitlement to be a full part of the United Kingdom internal market. We will be guided by securing progress for the long-term and not side-tracked by short-term calendar-led initiatives. We make no secret of our desire to see a successful conclusion to our negotiations with the Government, thus restoring the political balance in Northern Ireland.

With your support, and the mandate you have given us, we are able to make the arguments and deliver the changes we need for the future of Northern Ireland and our place in the Union. Over the last two years when our political opponents said it couldn’t be done, we proved them wrong. Through determination and with strong support, we will steadily and confidently pursue and secure our objectives.

Thank you,

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
DUP Leader
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