Theresa May rubbishes Brexit protocol change

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Theresa May stood up in Parliament on Tuesday to warn Boris Johnson away from making any moves to dismantle the Northern Ireland Protocol. The former Prime Minister made clear her opposition to any unilateral moves by UK Government to deal with the Protocol without an agreement with Brussels. Mrs May’s warning to the Prime Minister was interrupted by the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson who argued the ongoing Brexit row between the EU and UK over Northern Ireland had to be dealt with. 

Mrs May told MPs on Tuesday following the Queen’s Speech: “I noticed that there was no reference to what has been referred to in the papers as a bill in relation to, and I’m going to use the word, the Northern Ireland Protocol and possibly to varying the terms of the treaty unilaterally.

“Can I say to [Boris Johnson] and he will not be surprised if I say this, that I do not feel that that would be the right move for the Government.

“I think the government needs to consider not just some immediate issues, but also the wider sense of what such a move would say about the United Kingdom and its willingness to abide by treaties which it has signed.”

The Prime Minister shook his head as he listened to the caution from his predecessor in Number 10 from the Conservative frontbench. 

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Intervening in her speech, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the protocol “needs to be dealt with” and was “undermining political stability in Northern Ireland”.

But Mrs May said her Brexit deal “met the requirements of the Good Friday Agreement”.

Responding to Sir Jeffrey, she said: “I put a deal before this House which actually met the requirements of the Good Friday Agreement and actually enabled us not to have a border down the Irish Sea or to have a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“Sadly the DUP and others across this House chose to reject that, but it was just such an opportunity for what he [Sir Jeffrey] wanted.”

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Mrs May urged the Prime Minister to “ensure that we’re a Government that doesn’t just work for certain parts of the country, but a Government that truly works for everyone”.

She said: “The cost-of-living crisis is making life difficult for many across the country. We have rising inflation, the need to restore public finances.

“The number of people who are economically inactive in this country is rising as well as we’ve seen a hit to sterling and forecast growth is well below trend.

“All those make for a very challenging environment and it’s a time like this that the Conservative principles of sound public finances and competent economic management are needed more than ever.”

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Mrs May said she was “deeply disappointed that we only see draft legislation on a new mental health Act”.

She said: “I now fear we might not see a new Act until 2024 and given the proximity of a potential general election may not see a new Act in this Parliament at all. I have to say that I think those suffering from mental health deserve better from the Government and I would encourage action on introducing a new mental health Act.”

The former prime minister added: “I’m also disappointed we don’t have an employment Bill particularly to put through the policy of ensuring that tips that are left for waiters actually get paid to those individuals.”

Mrs May said she was also “disappointed… we don’t see a commitment to an independent public advocate. This was a 2017 manifesto commitment”.

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