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Tory leadership candidates challenged to set out position on NI Protocol

A women walks past a mural on Hill Street in Belfast by Ciaran Gallagher Art (PA)
A women walks past a mural on Hill Street in Belfast by Ciaran Gallagher Art (PA)

The pair battling to become the next leader of the Conservative Party have been challenged to set out their positions on the Northern Ireland Protocol during a visit to the region.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are due in Belfast on Wednesday to take part in a party hustings event in Northern Ireland’s capital.

They will address party members who will cast their votes this month, with the result set to be announced on September 5, and the UK’s next prime minister confirmed.

Devolution in Belfast has been in flux since February when the DUP withdrew its first minister from the governing executive in protest over the economic border created in the Irish Sea by Brexit’s protocol.

Brexit
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson (PA)

All unionists have expressed concern over the protocol, creating what they regard as a border in the Irish Sea.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie described the hustings as “an opportune moment for both candidates to set out their stall on exactly how they are going to proceed in the weeks ahead to deal with the protocol”.

“The protocol has only played a small part of the policy discussions so far, but it will be one of the most important issues for an incoming prime minister because its impact is so far reaching in Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom`s future relations with our neighbours,” he said.

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Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie (PA)

“Neither can the EU be allowed to prevaricate any longer. Northern Ireland cannot afford to have more months of endless diplomatic whataboutery.

“Both the EU and the UK Government need to get back to the negotiating table as a matter of urgency. If they don`t then we would expect the UK Government to act.

“The protocol needs dealt with once and for all because it continues to damage the Belfast Agreement and places a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”