The Prime Minister has warned she will not allow the impasse over the Northern Ireland Protocol to “drift”.
Liz Truss reiterated that the UK remained open to a negotiated solution with the EU on issues with the contentious post-Brexit arrangement which has created economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
However, Ms Truss again stressed that she would act unilaterally to address problems with the protocol, by way of domestic legislation at Westminster, if a deal with Brussels proved elusive.
The Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is progressing through Parliament, would empower ministers to rip up parts of the protocol without the approval of the EU.
Brussels says it would represent a breach of international law and could prompt retaliatory action.
Powersharing in Northern Ireland is on ice because the region’s largest unionist party, the DUP, is blocking the formation of a devolved executive in protest at the protocol.
The Prime Minister said the problem needed to be sorted out one way or the other, as she made clear the absence of a regional government at Stormont was not sustainable.
In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland, Ms Truss said: “We’ve always been clear that we want to resolve the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, ideally with a negotiated settlement, but we have put through the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill because we hadn’t been able to achieve a negotiated settlement.
“We will remain open to a negotiated settlement. But there are some fundamental principles that we have to achieve.
“We are open to a negotiated solution, but we are progressing with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill as we stand, because what we can’t allow is this situation to drift.”
Ms Truss said she had encouraged all parties in Northern Ireland to get back into devolved government.
“I’m very clear that I want to see all parties part of the Assembly and the Executive,” she said.
“I have made it clear to everybody I’ve spoken to that I want to see the Executive and the Assembly operating. The people of Northern Ireland need a government.
“What I’m about is making sure we restore the primacy of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. That’s what’s important – that we are treating both communities in Northern Ireland fairly.
“So that means having free-flowing east-west trade, as well as free-flowing north-south trade. It means making sure that the people of Northern Ireland can benefit from the same tax benefits as the people of Great Britain. So these are fundamental principles that we need to fix in order to resolve the situation in Northern Ireland.
“I’m determined to fix those. We put through the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill to fix those problems. I’m very clear that I’m open to negotiate a solution, provided it fixes the problems that we’ve identified.
“I want to see the (Stormont) parties working together. I want to see that government back up and running. That’s my priority.”