UK government ready to quiet protocol game on Northern Ireland
The government of Britain’s newly elected Prime Minister Liz Truss has indicated that it would be ready to settle with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol issue. The new Northern Ireland minister has said he is aiming for a negotiated deal with Brussels.
The new Foreign Secretary for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton Harris, told the House of Commons on Wednesday (7 September) the government’s priority was for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Ireland of the North to return to the negotiating table and be able to do so as required by applicable rules, to participate in a joint government with their political opponents, Sinn Fein.
Northern Ireland has been without a government since the general election in May, in which Sinn Fein, which campaigns for a united Ireland, led the polls.
« But to do that we need to resolve the problems of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has upset the balance between communities in Northern Ireland” , he added.
The DUP has said it will not appoint a speaker for the assembly and will not reinstate the power-sharing executive until its concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol are resolved. In practice this means that the establishment of a stable government in Northern Ireland has come to a standstill for the time being.
Mr Heaton Harris confirmed that the Truss government did “Committed to resolving protocol issues, ideally through negotiation but otherwise by law”.
And to add at the end of the debates: “I am in favor of a negotiation with the EU that can solve the problems of the protocol. »
Former Secretary of State Liz Truss was elected leader of the Conservative Party by 160,000 supporters on Tuesday (6 September) – and confirmed as de facto Prime Minister.
Weeks before Boris Johnson was forced to resign after a move by Tory MPs, Ms Truss tabled a bill that would allow the Northern Ireland Protocol to be unilaterally overruled. This bill is currently in Parliament.
During the summer’s election campaign, Ms Truss’ staff had hinted that one of their first actions as Prime Minister could be to suspend Protocol, which would set the stage for open conflict between the UK and the EU.
The protocol negotiated and approved by Boris Johnson as part of the “Brexit” negotiations has been a major bone of contention with Brussels. Negotiations between EU and UK officials on changes to the implementation and scope of the protocol started in mid-2021 but made little progress.
Heaton Harris, a former MEP who gained a reputation as a fierce Eurosceptic before moving to Westminster in 2010, served in Boris Johnson’s government as Chief Whip and Minister for Europe.
He will meet political leaders in Northern Ireland on Thursday (8 September).
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