By Cate McCurry and Michelle Devane, PA
Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss said she expects to see powersharing re-established in Northern Ireland as the protocol Bill progresses through Parliament.
The UK Foreign Secretary also said she would not accept any compromises on a renegotiated Northern Ireland Protocol as prime minister if it meant key UK demands were not met.
She made the comments during a visit to Belfast, where she and Rishi Sunak were quizzed by Tory members during a hustings event.
She told party members that until the Northern Ireland Protocol is sorted, Stormont will not be back up and running.
“And I’ve been in discussions with all of the parties in Northern Ireland, I’m determined to make it happen,” Ms Truss said.
“And as we make progress on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill we will see powersharing re-established in Northern Ireland, and as well the Belfast Good Friday Agreement re-established.”
Asked what compromises she would accept, she said: “I will not accept anything that does not deliver on the key issues I talked about.”
She emphasised the need to make sure “UK courts are the ultimate arbiter”, that east-west trade is “free flowing”, and that people in Northern Ireland “can benefit from the tax benefits delivered by the UK Government”.
Ms Truss also said she is “absolutely determined” to resolve the issues facing Northern Ireland, particularly on customs, while “making sure” people in Northern Ireland can benefit from the same tax breaks as people in Great Britain.
“Now if the European Union are willing to come to a negotiated solution to achieve that, I would be absolutely willing to do that. But the Bill will continue to go through Parliament and I want to get that Bill through,” she added.
“At the moment the EU have refused to change the text of the Protocol. In order to make those changes on tax and on customs, they need to agree to change the tax.
“So I’m still waiting to hear from the EU as to whether or not they’re willing to change that text, but in the meantime, we will continue with the protocol Bill.”
Ms Truss also told reporters she would be asking Stormont politicians to “get back around the table” in a bid to form a government.
“I want to see the parties in Northern Ireland reform a government here,” she said.
“It’s important for the people of Northern Ireland.
“There are lots of challenges that need to be dealt with.
“We’ve been talking about cost of living, energy, we need a government in Northern Ireland to be doing that.
“So, I will be asking them to get back around the table and form a government.”
Meanwhile, the Foreign Secretary’s leadership rival Rishi Sunak said his plan “is the same as Liz’s plan” in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“I think actually both Liz and I are supporting the same Bill that is in Parliament, that we both support and so in that sense there isn’t a difference between us,” he said during his visit to the Northern Ireland capital.
“My plan is the same as Liz’s plan, which is to push on and pass the Bill that is in Parliament, and I’m confident that that’s the right way to resolve the situation, and people should be in no doubt that under my premiership that Bill would continue to make its way through Parliament and become law.”
He added: “What’s very clear is that we need to ensure that all strands of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement are respected and at the moment it’s pretty clear that particularly the east-west strand of that agreement and obviously the lack of a functioning executive are not working and that needs resolution.
“I will be privileged and proud to be a prime minister of the entire UK and that means ensuring Northern Ireland’s place in the UK and as is currently being implemented the protocol is not making that possible and it needs to be fixed.”