Tory leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have both pledged to plough ahead with the British Government’s controversial bill to override the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The two MPs, one of whom will soon become Britain’s next Prime Minister, were in County Down for a hustings with local party members.
Last year Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was put in charge of renegotiating the protocol with the European Union but the two sides have failed to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Ms Truss’ response was to introduce legislation into the Commons that would abolish custom checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Today, she criticised the “unfairness” of the protocol and claimed:
"Until we sort the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, we're not going to get Stormont 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.
"And as we make progress on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill we will see power-sharing re-established in Northern Ireland, and as well the Belfast Good Friday Agreement re-established."
She added she would not accept any deal from the EU that did not allow for the free flow of goods within the United Kingdom and kept Northern Ireland under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
While the leadership contest has seen the two candidates clash notably on tax and spending, Mr Sunak said that on this issue there is “probably not an enormous amount of disagreement”.
He stressed that an agreement with the EU would be preferable but told Tory members “be in no doubt about my resolve to fix the situation with the protocol, which I think will unlock power sharing and bring people back together”.
Liz Truss also gave short shrift to a member who said the British Parliament had behaved “undemocratically” when it voted to allow abortion in the province.
“We are a United Kingdom,” Ms Truss told the audience.
“And we need all our laws to apply across the United Kingdom. That is what a Union is."
Only members of the Conservative party have a vote in the contest and the winner will be announced on 5th September.
Main image: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. Picture by: Alamy.com