Northern Ireland Executive Formation Debate

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Department: Northern Ireland Office

Northern Ireland Executive Formation

Richard Thomson Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
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Can I just say on behalf of my party that we very much welcome the progress that has been made? We are firmly of the view that Northern Ireland is governed best when it is governed locally, and we welcome the publication of the Command Paper.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the distance that has been travelled by all parties in getting to this point, but we were brought to this point by a failure of politics around the manner in which the UK chose to leave the European Union. Now that the politics has moved on, it is time for the politicians in Northern Ireland to step up, and we wish the MLAs well in that endeavour and look forward to seeing the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister taking office in what will be a very significant moment in history for all in these islands.

The Secretary of State describes his party as being the party of the Union, and I say to him that it has not gone unnoticed in other parts of the Union that Northern Ireland has for some time had the offer of a status, in its access to the UK market and to the European market, that other parts of the Union are now deprived of. I am sure that voters will draw their own conclusions from that.

I want to ask two questions. When might the details of any new fiscal framework emerge? While I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the new east-west economic council, can the Secretary of State clarify what role there might be for the other devolved institutions in these islands to make that new council as successful as it possibly can be?

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions, his welcome and his help in the past few weeks and months, which has been much appreciated. Again, it has helped us to get to this place. He is right to recognise that Northern Ireland is a special place, and has a special place as the only part of the United Kingdom with a land border with the EU. In the past, that has created disadvantage, but we hope it will create advantage for it in the future. Everyone recognises that; it was recognised in the Windsor framework and, as he will see, in various choices we are making in the Command Paper.

On the fiscal framework, I very much hope that the incoming Northern Ireland Executive and Ministers responsible will work with His Majesty’s Treasury in great detail to make sure that we get that absolutely right. I have never conducted a negotiation with His Majesty’s Treasury in that sort of way, but I imagine that it has quite tight pockets, is very difficult to get hold of and probably would not want ongoing commentary. However, I am sure that it will make the matter as public as it can, when it can. Finally, on the east-west body, it is important that it works with all parts of Great Britain.