The DUP said it is seeking “further movement” from the Government on post-Brexit trade, after presenting a set of proposed actions to address its concerns.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the proposals were partly informed by the findings of a consultative panel he established to assess unionist and business attitudes to the latest EU/UK deal.
Former DUP leaders and first ministers Peter Robinson and Baroness Foster were among those on the eight-member panel.
While the party has not published its findings, Sir Jeffrey said on Thursday that the panel had concluded that the new Windsor Framework deal “doesn’t adequately address the concerns that unionist and businesses have”.
The DUP is currently blocking devolution at Stormont and has said it will not return until it secures further assurances from the Government on Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market.
The protocol was agreed by the UK and EU to ensure a free-flowing Irish land border post Brexit.
It did that by creating new regulatory and customs checks on the movement of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.
The Windsor Framework struck by London and Brussels sought to reduce the red tape on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, while still maintaining dual market access for Northern Ireland-based companies to sell freely into Britain and the EU.
The DUP has said the new accord does not go far enough to address its concerns around sovereignty and the application of EU law in Northern Ireland.
Sir Jeffrey joined representatives from the other main Stormont parties at Hillsborough Castle for talks about budgetary issues.
Afterwards he was asked whether his party was any closer to returning to powersharing.
“Frankly, we’re the only party standing up for Northern Ireland. I’m proud of that.
“I’m proud of the fact that every week I go to Westminster and I engage with the Government on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland to get an outcome that creates the stability that we need in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “What we are doing is taking the findings of the consultation panel’s report and putting those together with our own assessment and we are putting to the Government a set of proposals to bring forward what we believe will help us to solve this problem.
“The main conclusion of the report is of course that the Windsor Framework doesn’t adequately address the concerns that unionists and businesses have and therefore we need to see further movement on the part of the UK Government to get us to that outcome.
“That’s the outcome we want. An outcome that works for everyone.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris declined to be drawn on the discussions with the DUP.
“I’ve found in my time in politics that you can only really deliver any results by keeping private conversations confidential,” he said at Hillsborough.
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he believed the DUP would re-enter Stormont in the autumn.
“It was quite clear from the discussions (at Hillsborough) that the Westminster Government and the DUP are talking about what can be done in the margins in order to get the Executive up and running,” he said.
“We’re not being kept privy to that, it’s being kept secret.”