There have been discussions North/South and certainly many east-west. I have corresponded in writing and had telephone conversations with my colleagues in the UK Government on over 50 occasions, not to mention the dozens of meetings in which I have raised the issue and the difficulties caused by the protocol with them. I have also raised the issues with colleagues in the Irish Republic and indicated to them the damage that is being done to relationships as a consequence of their support for the protocol and, in particular, Leo Varadkar's bad behaviour when he showed photographs from the 1970s and said that that was what could happen in Northern Ireland. That was a disgraceful action. As a consequence, we have a European Union that argues that it is doing this to protect the peace process, when, in fact, its actions are damaging it.
Minister, your party leader has made it clear that you will not be participating in future North/South meetings. Will you clarify whether that includes the attendance of the DUP junior Minister, Gary Middleton, at the Specialised Committee meeting on the implementation of the protocol as part of the Joint Committee?
The party leader has made his statement, and the party leader will stand over the statement, as will the Ministers. That will cause problems, and we understand that. It will cause problems for other parties, because the basis of the agreement under which we are in here is that we engage in North/South meetings and in the North/South infrastructure. The decision has, however, been taken that we cannot have that normality of relationships North/South whilst we have that disturbance in east-west relationships. The Belfast Agreement was built on relationships across these islands, not just on this one island. It is therefore incumbent on us to reflect that in what we do and to make sure that we can get to a situation in which we are again ensuring that relationships across these islands are maintained in a constructive way.