James Brokenshire: I welcome my hon. Friend to his place and to his position as Chair of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs. I wish him and members of that Committee positive and fruitful endeavours in their work and I look forward to giving evidence to his Committee soon. He makes an important point about the important role of the Policing Board. I am not going to speculate about other options....
James Brokenshire: I welcome the statement that the right hon. Gentleman has made on behalf of his party, and indeed the comments that Arlene Foster has made about seeing that desire to get back into an Executive. I would also point to the comments of Michelle O’Neill, who has said that she believes that, while there are difficulties, a deal is still doable. I would certainly encourage the right hon....
James Brokenshire: I say to the right hon. Gentleman that there are a number of issues that would clearly benefit from having an Executive with local decision making by locally elected politicians. He highlights the issue of Bombardier. While this is a commercial matter, as he knows, the UK Government are working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier’s operations and its highly skilled workforce in Belfast....
James Brokenshire: The people of Northern Ireland need a fully functioning Executive where strategic decisions can be made in the interests of the whole community. That is clearly in line with what they voted for in the Assembly election in March and that is the appropriate means to ensure local accountability and accessibility for all the people of Northern Ireland.
James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman knows that time is running short. There is the lack of a budget in Northern Ireland and that cannot continue for much longer. The more we head into October the bigger the challenges will be. He makes a point about accountability. Obviously, as the UK Government we have a primary responsibility in respect of political stability in Northern Ireland, but I note the point he...
James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement. I note that the leaders of both the DUP and Sinn Féin have issued a joint letter to the vice-president underlining the particular circumstances and the real significance of this matter to Northern Ireland, and I would encourage everyone to play their part in...
James Brokenshire: The hon. Lady fundamentally mischaracterises what the EU (Withdrawal) Bill is about. It is about creating UK-wide frameworks to ensure that we have a smooth transition, and I would have thought that was in the best interests of all of the United Kingdom and that everybody should get behind it.
James Brokenshire: The Government’s position on Northern Ireland and Ireland affirmed our commitment to maintaining the common travel area. That is supported by the EU, as confirmed in its recent paper on Ireland. I have regular discussions with the Irish Government and know that they, too, are supportive of maintaining the common travel area.
James Brokenshire: I point the hon. Gentleman to the paper that the EU itself issued, which said: “The continued operation of the Common Travel Area is fundamental to facilitating the interaction of people in Ireland and the United Kingdom…Continuation of the Common Travel Area arrangements, in conformity with European Union law, should be recognised.” I encourage the hon. Gentleman to do so.
James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend highlights the strong co-operation between the Irish and UK Governments in respect of the common travel area. We want that to continue in the future. It has served us well over many decades, which is why our paper highlights its importance. Indeed, I think that the EU itself recognises that too.
James Brokenshire: The Irish Government recognise the particular challenges. We encourage all those involved to engage positively and proactively with the position paper we published to encourage further discussion. It has workable proposals and we need to get down to having a detailed discussion on them.
James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend makes a very important point about Schengen. Our common framework on the common travel area has operated since the 1920s, and the UK, the Irish Government and the EU recognise its significance. We are determined to find a positive way through, and that can be achieved.
James Brokenshire: I have pressed the parties on the urgent need to resolve the current impasse in the interests of the entire community and I believe a deal remains possible. Locally accountable government is essential for the delivery of public services, good governance and political stability in Northern Ireland.
James Brokenshire: I am concerned, because it is not right that we do not have locally elected politicians making decisions and, yes, making sure that civil servants who act to deliver those services are held accountable. That is why we need to see the restoration of the Executive at the earliest possible opportunity, serving all communities, and delivering those public services that people need.
James Brokenshire: I certainly hear that message loud and clear. There is no direct way in which I can intervene; there is no legislation that would authorise me to do so. As I said in a speech in Cambridge on Friday, if we were to be in the situation where the UK Government have to make direct directions, that is certainly an issue that I would have to consider.
James Brokenshire: We have recognised the case for the needs of Northern Ireland, where there has been under-investment in infrastructure and mental health issues. I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman does not acknowledge and recognise that. We firmly do, and act in the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom.
James Brokenshire: UK Government Ministers have held a number of meetings with Northern Ireland’s political parties about EU exit. However, our priority remains restoring the Northern Ireland Executive, which will enable direct ministerial engagement on matters relating to the UK’s departure from the EU.
James Brokenshire: I note my hon. Friend’s focus on drinks and her preferred tipple. The agri-foods sector is a key component of the Northern Irish and, indeed, Irish economy. That is why we highlighted it in our position paper on standards with regard to the need for a frictionless border. We have set out those proposals, and we want that engagement with the EU.
James Brokenshire: I encourage the hon. Gentleman to read our position paper, which sets out the proposals. We do not want a border emerging across the Irish sea. We do not want a hard border, which is why we have set out proposals on the movement of people and goods and, yes, proposals in relation to customs arrangements.
James Brokenshire: We have been clear about the maintenance of the common travel area, and we have set out two alternatives for the operation of customs arrangements. On the question of clarity, I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to ask for clarity from the Leader of the Opposition, who has been anything but clear about whether his party supports membership of the single market or not. I encourage him to work...