Brandon Lewis is calling on Northern Ireland party leaders to “come together” and form an executive

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis said he would “continue to put pressure on the EU” to agree on changes needed to persuade the unionist DUP party to agree to power-sharing on a new executive

Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis has urged the five main party leaders to form an executive “as soon as possible”.

Speaking separately to leaders including Sinn Féin Vice-Chair Michelle O’Neill and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the unionist DUP party, Mr Lewis stressed the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

The Tory minister encouraged them all to “come together and agree on a way forward” to form a stable government.

It comes amid growing fears of political instability and possible civil unrest amid rumors that the newly elected Stormont Assembly could be sidelined until Christmas.

Sinn Féin became the largest party in the devolved government for the first time over the weekend.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP party


(Getty Images)

That means they are entitled to the role of First Minister, but only if the DUP appoints a Deputy First Minister.

The unionist DUP has ruled that out unless No10 makes significant changes to Northern Ireland’s protocol set out in Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit deal.

After his meetings, Mr Lewis said: “The current situation with the Protocol fundamentally undermines the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and creates an unacceptable situation in Northern Ireland.

“We will continue to press the EU to agree to the crucial changes that are urgently needed, but we will not take anything off the table in our pursuit of these solutions.

“As I have communicated to party leaders today, our collective focus must be on restoring the Stormont institutions so that these newly elected representatives can come together and do something in the best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.”

Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and Irish Republican Sinn Fein Party Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill reacts after learning of her election results


AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Jeffrey said he would not bring the DUP back into power-sharing until problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol were resolved.

He told reporters in Stormont: “The Government is firmly committed to protecting Northern Ireland’s place in the UK Single Market. Two and a half years later, they have done nothing to honor that commitment. I hold them to that commitment. Tomorrow I will make that commitment to the Prime Minister.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said if the Northern Ireland Protocol was the impediment to a functioning executive branch in Stormont then it had to be dealt with.

He said: “We need to get the executive branch back up and running so we can start caring for the people of Northern Ireland who are suffering from a cost of living crisis.

“We all know what the landing zone is, no checks on goods from the UK to Northern Ireland if they stay in Northern Ireland. That eliminates the border in the Irish Sea.

“So we have to go ahead and make it. Once we get into that, it should leave the way open for leadership formation.”

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