EU urged to ‘see sense’ as Truss ready to go nuclear

Truss ‘not a major departure’ says Iain Duncan Smith

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The Prime Minister today said she wanted to thrash out an agreement with Brussels but added that it would have to deliver “all of the things” set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill. Her comments were echoed by new Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris who said he would prefer a negotiated settlement but the Government remained committed to progressing the Bill, which gives ministers powers to override elements of the Protocol.

Mark Francois, chair of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, said Ms Truss should “legislate without delay” unless the EU “sees sense”.

And Tory MP Theresa Villiers called for the Bill to become law “as a matter of urgency” in a bid to “unlock negotiations” with the bloc – who warned earlier this week that their position had not changed “one iota”.

Mr Francois told “It has always been the Government’s position that they preferred a negotiated solution regarding the Protocol, but that they have been prepared to use the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill if negotiations proved unsuccessful.

“Nothing that the Northern Ireland Secretary said today changed that position and I hope that the EU will still see sense, but if not, we should legislate without delay.”

Ms Villiers added: “My view is that we need a twin-track approach.

“We should get the Protocol Bill on the statute book as a matter of urgency, but also continue to seek an agreed solution with the EU.

“It is possible to do both at the same time and having the Bill making progress could be an effective way to unlock negotiations.”

It comes after Ms Truss was asked during Prime Minister’s Questions by former Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara if she will press ahead with the Bill if negotiations with the EU are not “forthcoming”.

The Prime Minister replied: “My preference is for a negotiated solution, but it does have to deliver all of the things we set out in the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

“And what we cannot allow is for this situation to drift because my number one priority is protecting the supremacy of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr Heaton-Harris made similar comments earlier on Wednesday in the Commons, saying: “We are committed to resolving the problems in the Protocol, ideally through a negotiation, but, if not, through legislation so yes.”

The Bill would allow the UK Government to override elements of the Protocol, which was designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The arrangement has been an ongoing source of tensions as it has led to checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Speaking on Monday ahead of Ms Truss being unveiled as Boris Johnson’s successor, the European Commission demanded the Protocol was honoured. 

European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said: “We are always looking for new beginnings. Obviously anything that can help move forward in our relationship with the United Kingdom will be very welcome.

“As to what we expect it is very clear, it has not changed one iota. We expect the full implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the Trade and Co-operation Agreement we have signed and, of course, the Irish and Northern Irish Protocol.”

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted a “constructive relationship” with Ms Truss “in full respect of our agreements”.

She said: “The EU and the UK are partners. We face many challenges together, from climate change to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I look forward to a constructive relationship, in full respect of our agreements.”

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