Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Bill Debate

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Department: Northern Ireland Office
Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
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I recently tabled an amendment on immediate commencement, so I am pleased that that has finally come to fruition. In the circumstances, I have a few extremely brief points to make. First, most people in Northern Ireland are not focused on the protocol—it is there in the background, and it does pose challenges—as their priorities are health, jobs, the cost of living and their children’s education. That is where their focus lies and it is important that we fully represent that.

I fear that we are walking into an even bigger crisis after the next Assembly election. If people walk away from power sharing, they do so at their peril, because power sharing devolution is the only way in which Northern Ireland can be successfully governed. That is a clear lesson from history.

The protocol is the product of the Government’s choices around the nature of Brexit. Pragmatic solutions are available if people want to work on them, but what is not available is delusions and fantasies about what is out there. If people want to walk back some of the choices made on Brexit, that is good. However, given the nature of Northern Ireland, there will always be a need for some form of special circumstances. Whenever you leave the single market and customs union, you draw a line on a map, and that will inevitably create some degree of friction, but we have a challenge and a choice to manage it.

Conor Burns Portrait Conor Burns
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First, may I say to the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), that it is good to be opposite him in the Chamber this evening? I thank all hon. and right hon. Members for their contributions, which have, if I may gently say so, strayed slightly beyond the scope of the two amendments that we are debating.