Northern Ireland Protocol: Assembly Elections

Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at on 14 December 2022.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson Scottish National Party, Midlothian

What recent discussions he has had with representatives of (a) EU member states and (b) political parties in Northern Ireland on the potential impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election.

Photo of John McNally John McNally Scottish National Party, Falkirk

What recent discussions he has had with representatives of (a) EU member states and (b) political parties in Northern Ireland on the potential impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Farming, Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

What recent discussions he has had with representatives of (a) EU member states and (b) political parties in Northern Ireland on the potential impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on the upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election.

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Since being appointed in October, I have met a lot of representatives from European states, and the Minister of State, my hon. Friend Mr Baker holds several good relationships with similar.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson Scottish National Party, Midlothian

There will clearly be a range of views on the protocol going forward, and in any election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, those views will need to be outlined clearly. We know that the Government do not respect mandates they see coming forward from devolved Assemblies, so can the Secretary of State give an assurance that he will respect the mandates coming forward from any Northern Ireland Assembly election?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I think there is one group of people who should not lecture about not respecting democratic votes. However, this Government and, I believe, all parties in this place want to see the Executive and the Assembly restored, and should there be another election, that result will be respected as the last result should be respected.

Photo of John McNally John McNally Scottish National Party, Falkirk

The Prime Minister has put the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill on ice to allow time for a UK-EU deal to be struck. Can the Minister commit to the House that a deal will be struck before April next year and that this pro-Brexit dispute will not hamper the Good Friday agreement celebrations and the UK’s international relations with America and the EU?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I think—[Interruption.] I genuinely did not think the hon. Gentleman’s question was that good. He should maybe imbibe a bit of the Christmas festivities, because I think we should be more glass-half-full about the opportunities of a negotiated settlement to the protocol issue, which will benefit everybody and all parties in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Farming, Agriculture and Rural Affairs)

The Vice-President of the European Commission has said that

“if there is political will”,

issues around the Northern Ireland protocol could be resolved

“within a couple of weeks.”

Will the Minister find the will to reach a solution and commit to a timeline for a deal, perhaps before the end of the six-week extension to form an Executive in January?

Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I can genuinely say to the hon. Lady that the atmosphere in the relationships between the European Union and the United Kingdom Government has changed dramatically in recent weeks and months, and that is the basis for all good things.