UK to take ‘necessary steps’ to resolve Northern Ireland dispute, says Dominic Raab

The UK will focus on efforts to reform the Northern Ireland Protocol in an effort to preserve stability, said Dominic Raab, as the government grappled with the implications of Sinn Fein’s success in Stormont.

Stormont’s victory in the races was a first for a Republican party and “heralds a new era” in politics, said Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill.

His party is committed to a border poll on unification with Ireland, although this is not a likely near-term prospect, with Raab pointing out that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland did not support Sinn Fein’s position.

“If you look at the results in Northern Ireland, 58% of people voted for parties that support the Union or parties that 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, given that 58% of people in Northern Ireland are not asking for this kind of change, is to get the executive up and running.”

O’Neill’s hopes of becoming prime minister in a power-sharing executive hinge on the unionist DUP, the second-largest party, entering a government – something he has ruled out unless there are major changes to the post-Brexit deal. from Northern Ireland.

Raab said the government would take “all necessary steps” to resolve the issues surrounding the protocol.

But he declined to say whether action on the Northern Ireland Protocol would be included in the queen’s speech on Tuesday.

He told Sky News: “If anything, the outcome of these elections in Northern Ireland makes it clear that it cannot be delayed.”

He suggested this would be dealt with in the coming “weeks and months”, warning that stability in Northern Ireland was being “threatened” by the dispute over the protocol – which was agreed to by Boris Johnson’s government as part of the EU’s Brexit divorce.

The standoff will heighten 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.

This could trigger a major breakdown in relations between the UK and the European Union.

The protocol effectively creates controls over goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland in order to allow for 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 all necessary measures to protect the economic and constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland,” Raab said.

He indicated that the protocol was used as a “political device” by Brussels.

Ireland’s Europe Minister Thomas Byrne said “a decisive majority” of MLAs elected to Stormont wanted to make the protocol work and called on the UK to “renewly engage with the European Union” on the issue.

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