Sunak working ‘flat out’ to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland

Sunak Working ‘Flat Out’ To Restore Powersharing In Northern Ireland
Prime Minister’s Questions, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Jonathan McCambridge and David Young, PA

British prime minister Rishi Sunak has said he is working “flat out” to try to restore the powersharing Executive in Northern Ireland.

Speaking during a visit to Belfast, the UK prime minister said he was committed to resolving issues with the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol, conceding there were parts of the treaty which threaten the North’s place in the union.


Devolution has been in flux since February when the DUP withdrew its first minister from the ministerial executive in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Talks between the UK and EU to resolve the impasse over the contentious trading arrangements are continuing with both sides continuing to insist a deal is possible.



The DUP has insisted it will not allow a return to powersharing until radical changes to the protocol are delivered.

The North’s largest unionist party has blocked the formation of a new administration following May’s Assembly election and prevented the Assembly meeting to conduct legislative business as part of its protest over the protocol.


It claims the protocol has undermined Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom by creating economic barriers on trade entering the North from Great Britain.

Speaking during a visit to the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Mr Sunak said the people of Northern Ireland “need and deserve” a functioning executive.


He said: “I am really committed to resolving some of the issues with the protocol, protecting Northern Ireland’s place in the union, in the United Kingdom, and in doing so, restoring the Executive.

“That is what the people in Northern Ireland need and deserve and that is what I am working flat out to try and deliver.

“I have not put a strict deadline on the talks (between the Government and the EU) and I don’t want to raise people’s expectations of an imminent breakthrough.

“What I can tell you is I am very committed to resolving this issue.


“The Foreign Secretary met with his counterpart just this week, talks are ongoing and I will work as hard and as fast as I can to find a resolution to the issues with the protocol.

“I want to do that as soon as practically possible.”

Asked about the status of the talks with the EU, he said: “I am not going to give a running commentary on the negotiations, it wouldn’t be appropriate.

“What is of paramount importance to me is protecting Northern Ireland’s place in the union.

“The protocol, clearly there are areas of it which threaten that.

“I want to resolve those and I want to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the union.

“That is what I am setting out to do. If we can do that, we can get the Executive up and running, that is what people need and deserve.”

Northern Ireland Assembly election
Gordon Lyons MLA (left) with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, MP, leader of the DUP speaking to the media at a hotel near Belfast where Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held talks with Northern Ireland political leaders (Liam McBurney/PA)

During his first visit to Northern Ireland as prime minister, Mr Sunak met the North’s political leaders on Thursday.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said she pushed Mr Sunak on the need for a deal on the protocol, while DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the prime minister told him there is likely to be an “intensification at the political level” of negotiations over coming weeks.

Mr Sunak toured the Harland & Wolff Belfast shipyard on Friday, accompanied by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, following the recent announcement of a contract to build three new supply ships for the Royal Navy there.

Mr Sunak said: “If you think about it, Belfast used to be home to the world’s largest shipyard so I think it is really fitting that it is going to complete the next generation of our navy support ships, which increase our security at sea.”

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