UK Will Take ‘Necessary Measures’ To Resolve Northern Ireland Row, says Dominic Raab
The UK will focus on efforts to reform the Northern Ireland Protocol in an effort to preserve stability, Dominic Raab said as the Government grappled with the implications of Sinn Fein’s Stormont success.
The victory in the Stormont contests was the first for a republican party and “ushers in a new era” of politics, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said.
Her party is committed to a border poll on unification with Ireland, although that is not a likely prospect in the short term, with Raab pointing out that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland had not supported Sinn Fein’s position.
“If you look at the results in Northern Ireland, 58% fully of people voted either for parties who support the Union or for parties who do not support constitutional change and that is the message from the people of Northern Ireland,” Raab told Sky News.
“We don’t have an executive yet, I think the first priority, mindful of that 58% of people in Northern Ireland who are not calling for that kind of change, is to get the executive up and running.”
O’Neill’s hopes of becoming first minister in a powersharing executive hinge on the unionist DUP, the second largest party, joining an administration – something it has ruled out unless there are major changes to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit deal.
Raab said the Government would take “whatever measures are necessary” to resolve the issues around the protocol.
But he refused to say whether action on the Northern Ireland Protocol would be included in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech.
He told Sky News: “If anything, the outcome in Northern Ireland from those elections makes it clear it can’t be put off.”
He suggested it would be dealt with in the coming “weeks and months”, warning that stability in Northern Ireland was being “imperilled” by the dispute over the protocol – which was agreed by Boris Johnson’s Government as part of the Brexit divorce from the EU.
The deadlock will increase tensions between Westminster and Brussels, with the UK insisting all options remain on the table – including the possibility of unilaterally scrapping elements of the deal.
That could trigger a major breakdown in relations between the UK and European Union.
The protocol effectively creates checks on goods flowing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in order to allow an open border with Ireland, which is within the EU’s single market and customs union.
“We will deal with the situation, we will take whatever measures are necessary to protect the economic as well as the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland,” Raab said.
He indicated that the protocol had been used as a “political device” by Brussels.
Ireland’s Europe minister Thomas Byrne said “a decisive majority” of the MLAs elected to Stormont want to make the protocol work and called on the UK to “engage in a renewed way with the European Union” on the issue.