Northern Ireland news

Tory chaos raises fears that protocol resolution will stall

British Prime Minister Liz Truss during a press conference after the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng. Picture by Daniel Leal/PA Wire
John Manley

THERE were concerns last night that the deepening upheaval in Downing Street will derail any potential resolution to the impasse around the protocol.

There was growing speculation that British Prime Minister Liz Truss could be out of office within days as the fallout from last month's mini-budget continued to plague the Tory administration.

Ms Truss yesterday sacked her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and scrapped parts of the pair's controversial economic package in what was seen as a desperate move to cling onto power.

The chancellor was asked to "step aside" just three weeks after the fledgling leadership team's fiscal plan unleashed sustained market and political pressure.

The turmoil at the heart of the British government has prompted fears that it could impact on efforts to find a resolution to the difficulties around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Improved Anglo-Irish relations and the resumption of talks between the UK and Brussels had raised expectations that a deal could be struck in the weeks ahead.

However, with the future of the current prime minister hanging in the balance, it seems unlikely that the EU will finalise any agreement against a background of instability.

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said yesterday's events had been the culmination of weeks of "utter chaos" that had seen the cost of borrowing soar.

"It has been clear for some time that Liz Truss and the Tory government needs to scrap this plan, end their shameless policy of lining the pockets of the rich and halt the attack on our public services," he told The Irish News last night.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the heightening crisis in Downing Street "comes at a time of many pressing challenges".

"The door to progress in UK and EU talks around the protocol is open wider and we mustn't see this opportunity squandered," he said.

"Northern Ireland is facing a major cliff edge in two weeks time with an obvious need for strong and clear partnership between the UK and Irish governments to manage the short term situation, including our chaotic public finances."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said working families would suffer as a result of the "chaos at the heart of the British government".

"There is no mandate for more of this chaos with the Conservative Party – indeed, without a devolved executive in Northern Ireland to protect us from this rogue government, many will be reflecting on how their interests could be better served in entirely new constitutional arrangements," he said.

Meanwhile, amid the chaos, former first minister Arlene Foster and her one-time executive colleague Peter Weir are appointed to the the House of Lords yesterday.

The peerages were conferred by King Charles on recommendation from Prime Minister Liz Truss, further to advice from former prime minister Boris Johnson.