Northern Ireland

Move against Northern Ireland Protocol unlikely to be in Queen’s Speech – Brandon Lewis

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis

A move against the Northern Ireland Protocol is unlikely to feature in the Queen’s Speech, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has intimated.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has urged the British Government to act on unionists’ concerns around the post-Brexit trading arrangements, criticising them as harmful to the union and calling for Northern Ireland’s position in the UK internal market to be protected.

However on Wednesday evening Mr Lewis said the Government wants to resolve issues with the protocol by agreement with the European Union.

Asked if the Government is planning to introduce a new law allowing it to waive elements of the protocol, Mr Lewis signalled that it would not be in the Queen’s Speech.

He told an interview with ITV’s Robert Peston: “Our focus is on resolving the issues with the protocol, ideally we want to do that by agreement with the European Union. The challenge we’ve got at the moment…”

Pressed on whether an announcement would come next week, he said: “No, Robert, we’ve not said that.”

Mr Lewis said: “What we’ve been clear about is at the moment, the protocol is causing problems in civic society, it’s causing problems with the Good Friday Agreement.

“Our duty to the people of Northern Ireland is to resolve those issues. Yes, we want to do that with the EU and that’s what Liz Truss has been focused on.”

The DUP withdrew First Minister Paul Givan from the Stormont Executive in February in protest at the protocol, a move which left the institutions unable to fully function.

Sir Jeffrey has made his call for action against the protocol a key part of his party’s campaign for the Stormont Assembly election which takes place on Thursday.

He said his party will not enter a future Executive unless the government takes action on the protocol.

He has addressed a series of rallies which have taken place across Northern Ireland in recent months against the protocol which is regarded by unionists as a border in the Irish Sea.

TUV leader Jim Allister said if the government is “resiling (again) from action against the protocol”, then, unionists “must use the election to send the strongest rejection of the iniquitous protocol by voting TUV – No Sea Border”.