Fixing the Northern Ireland protocol “cannot be postponed”, the deputy first minister said, fearing progress on power-sharing could stall after last Thursday’s election.
Dominic Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that stability was “jeopardized” by problems with the protocol, which governs Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade deals.
The deal ensured there would be no return to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, but creates an effective border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
A stalemate over efforts to renegotiate the deal was brought to a head by the results of last Thursday’s assembly election, which saw Sinn Fein become the largest party for the first time.
But the DUP union has said it will not participate in a decentralized power-sharing government unless progress is made on the protocol.
Mr Raab told Sky News the UK wants to see ‘stability’ created with the formation of a new executive.
But he said ‘stability is threatened – jeopardized if you will – by the issues surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol, something that affects communities at all levels’.
He added: “It is clear that the Northern Ireland protocol needs to be corrected…and that cannot be delayed.
“We won’t get the executive the people of Northern Ireland need until it’s sorted.”
Mr Raab said this would be done “preferably through negotiations”.
But he added: “Otherwise we will have to take the necessary steps to ensure that the economic integrity of trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain and frankly the constitutional integrity of the UK is protected. and preserved.”
The protocol was a deal that was agreed to by Boris Johnson’s government, but in recent months the PM and other senior ministers have expressed a willingness to renegotiate it – and have not ruled out Britain taking action unilaterally to suspend it.
Mr Raab said: ‘If it had been implemented with the kind of flexibility and goodwill and with the business interests of communities across Northern Ireland and it had not been used frankly as a political device, I don’t think we’d have the same level of problems.
“But the point of discussing this has passed. We need to see it now fixed. The government is committed to fixing it.”
You Can Read Also