Boris Johnson will urge politicians in Northern Ireland to get power back up and running as the government seeks to resolve a deadlock with Brussels over post-Brexit trade arrangements.
The prime minister heads to Belfast on Monday for a series of stalemate talks after the DUP blocked the election of the speaker of the House of Representatives in Stormont The assembly prevented him from sitting.
This move was strongly condemned shin fen Michelle O’Neill – whose party is now the largest in Parliament after elections earlier this month – and other party leaders.
Government sources said Johnson would use a series of private meetings to deliver a “hard message” that the parties must meet to form an executive and council if issues with the protocol are to be resolved.
He is expected to say that while the UK government will play its part to ensure political stability, politicians must “get back to work” so they can offer voters “bread and butter issues”.
The DUP strongly opposed Northern Ireland Protocol Because it required examination of goods transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, in order to keep the borders with the Republic open in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement.
British ministers have repeatedly said they will act unilaterally if no deal is reached to limit the impact of the checks, which have been blamed for hitting businesses and stoking societal tensions.
In his talks, Mr Johnson is expected to say that while the government will “always keep the door open for real dialogue” there will be “a necessity to act” to protect the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) if there is no change in the EU’s position.
He will insist that the government has never proposed abolishing the Protocol and will acknowledge that there must always be a treaty governing the UK’s relationship with the EU in relation to Northern Ireland in order to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.
However, he will say, the “delicate balance” of the GFA has been upset, eroding the historical economic ties linking Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, leaving the unitary community feeling its aspirations and identity threatened.
The prime minister will argue that the UK and EU’s “common goal” should be to agree to a reformed protocol that can have “the broadest possible support from the local community” when it faces a vote of approval in 2024.
Mr Johnson will also use his visit to ensure the implementation of three pre-existing commitments on the language and culture package, ensuring access to abortion services for women and girls, and introducing new measures to deal with the legacy of the past.
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