Boris Johnson and Irish foreign minister share hope for 'landing zone' on Northern Ireland Protocol ahead of crisis talks

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The prime minister is expected in Northern Ireland today as efforts to break the political deadlock at Stormont intensify.

Boris Johnson will hold talks with party leaders and attempt to persuade the Democratic Unionists to enter the power sharing government.

Sinn Fein is now the largest party but its vice president, Michelle O'Neill, cannot become first minister without a Unionist deputy first minister.

The DUP has blocked the formation of a new devolved administration over the Northern Ireland Protocol and resulting sea border.

Boris Johnson may be forced to choose between a government in Belfast or the treaty he agreed with the EU.

Sky News political editor Beth Rigby understands that the aim is to work towards restoring democracy and "safeguarding peace" by "addressing the legitimate concerns that prevent the majority community (unionists) from power sharing with Sinn Fein."

Despite the sabre-rattling about legislating unilaterally to override the protocol, Downing Street insiders were keen to stress that remains "very much a last resort" and that the PM wants to "sort this out calmly and rationally, without drama."

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, the prime minister said: "Many things have changed since the protocol was agreed.

"We have been told by the EU that it is impossible to make the changes to the protocol text to actually solve these problems in negotiations - because there is no mandate to do so."

Committing to "keep the door open to genuine dialogue", he echoed the words of Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney and referred to a potential "landing zone".

"Our shared objective must be to create the broadest possible cross-community support for a reformed protocol in 2024," he added.

Boris Johnson said he hoped the EU would change its position but warned: "If it does not, there will be a necessity to act.

"The government has a responsibility to provide assurance that the consumers, citizens and businesses of Northern Ireland are protected in the long term."

"We will set out a more detailed assessment and next steps to parliament in the coming days," he added.

The government is preparing to publish legislation to override the protocol but Sky News understands there are still concerns in cabinet about the legal position.

The bill could be challenged in parliament or in the courts if it is deemed to have breached international law.

The inclusion of protections to avert that would limit any action to the constraints of the full Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, DUP leader, said: "The prime minister's visit to Northern Ireland is a recognition that the protocol is not working and is harmful to Northern Ireland. Those problems must be addressed.

"We wait to hear what the prime minister has to say but we will not make judgments based on words. It is decisive action that must be taken.

"Until that action is taken, the consensus necessary for power sharing in Northern Ireland does not exist.

"We respect the mandate received by other parties, but equally they must recognise the clear view expressed by the Unionist electorate."

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean backed a suggestion by the prime minister, in his Belfast Telegraph article, that the surge in the cost of living was one of the reasons that the protocol must change.

Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

She told Sky News' Kay Burley: "The situation with the Northern Ireland protocol is putting more costs and paperwork on businesses.

"It's affecting the supply of various products and of course that has a knock-on impact on the cost of living."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting