The UK will focus its efforts on reforming Northern Ireland’s protocol to preserve stability, Deputy First Minister Dominic Raab said as the government grappled with the implications of Sinn Fein’s Stormont success.
The victory in Stormont “heralds a new era” in politics, said Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill.
His party has pledged to hold a border poll on unification with Ireland, although that is not a likely short-term prospect, with Mr Raab pointing out that a majority of voters in Northern Ireland North had not supported Sinn Fein’s position.
“If you look at the results in Northern Ireland, 58% of people voted either for parties that support the Union or for parties that don’t support constitutional change and that’s the message from the people of Northern Ireland. North,” Mr Raab told Sky. News.
“We don’t have an executive yet, I think the first priority, given the 58% of people in Northern Ireland who don’t call for this kind of change, is to get the executive in place.”
Ms O’Neill’s hopes of becoming Prime Minister in a power-sharing executive hinge on the DUP union, the second largest party, joining an administration – something he has ruled out unless major changes are made to the Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit deal.
Mr Raab said the government would take “all necessary steps” to resolve the protocol issues.
But he declined to say whether action on Northern Ireland protocol would be included in the Queen’s speech on Tuesday.
He told Sky News: ‘If anything, the outcome in Northern Ireland of this election clearly shows that it cannot be postponed.
He suggested this would be dealt with in the ‘weeks and months to come’, warning that stability in Northern Ireland was ‘jeopardized’ by the dispute over the protocol – which was agreed by Boris Johnson’s government in the framework of the Brexit divorce with the EU. .
The standoff will increase tensions between Westminster and Brussels, with the UK insisting all options remain on the table – including the possibility of unilaterally scrapping elements of the deal.
This could trigger a major rift in relations between the UK and the European Union.
The protocol effectively creates controls on goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland to allow for an open border with Ireland, which is part of the EU’s single market and customs union.
“We will deal with the situation, we will take all necessary steps to protect the economic and constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland,” Mr Raab said.
He said the protocol had been used as a “political artifice” by Brussels.
Ireland’s Europe Minister Thomas Byrne said “a decisive majority” of MPs elected at Stormont want to make the protocol work and called on the UK to “engage in a renewed way with the European Union ” On the question.
Along with the prospect of another round of Brexit battles with Brussels, Mr Johnson is also facing pressure from his own benches to change course after Thursday’s election.
Writing for The Telegraph, former Cabinet Minister Damian Green, leader of the influential One Nation Conservative MP caucus, said the party must “rediscover the virtues that appeal to natural Tories in strong Tory areas”, including reducing the tax burden to help those who are struggling. with the rising cost of living.
From the right of the party, former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood called for tax cuts and warned that governments ‘are usually only thrown out of office when the economy goes into recession on their watch “.
Mr Raab insisted that although the election had been ‘tough’ it was a ‘mixed bag’ and he was confident Mr Johnson’s leadership would survive.
“I am convinced that he can and will win the next election,” he said.
The Government will seek to use Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech to show it is responding to voters’ concerns and moving on from scandals involving Tory MPs and party rows over anti-lockdown fines for Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Mr Raab declined to call the speech a ‘reset’ for Mr Johnson’s administration, but added: ‘What we will be focusing on this week is our plans to stimulate the economy and protect the cost of living.
“We are going to talk about reforming the agricultural sector, innovation to create cheaper and healthier food.
“We’re going to talk about areas where Britain has a real comparative advantage, technology, financial services.”
Mr Raab acknowledged that the resurgence of the Liberal Democrats would mean he would face a “tough fight” in his own seat of Esher and Walton in Surrey.
Leveling Secretary Michael Gove has suggested a drop in home ownership may have contributed to party unrest in London, where flagship Wandsworth and Westminster authorities fell to Labor after protests decades of conservative control.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “There are other factors. But I think for young people in London, it is incumbent on the government of the day to address some of the factors that have made it harder for them to own their own home.
After the results of 198 out of 200 councils, the Conservatives had suffered a net loss of 12 councils and 401 councillors, Labor had gained seven councils and 240 seats, the Liberal Democrats five councils and 188 councillors.