‘Large gap to be bridged’ over Northern Ireland Protocol, minister warns

All parties “want a deal” to resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol impasse but “there is a large gap to be bridged”, Northern Ireland Office minister Steve Baker has

said. Mr Baker told MPs “there is no deal on the table” but “we simply must make progress on the protocol”, adding that he hoped the exchange “will be heard in the

EU”. Members of the DUP spoke out in opposition to the protocol, with leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warning his party was not prepared to tolerate a situation where Northern

Ireland is treated like “an EU colony”. The exchanges came as MPs debated the Commons second reading of the Northern Ireland Budget Bill to authorise resources for public

services in Northern Ireland for the years ending March 31 2023 and 2024 in the absence of a functioning devolved Northern Ireland Assembly and executive. There is a large

gap to be bridged and we are working intensively to do just thatSteve Baker Mr Baker said: “At the moment, I think the sense is amongst all parties, whether it’s the

government of Ireland, or whether it’s the parties represented here in the House, whether it’s Government ministers or the European Union, we all want a deal, we want to move

on. “We want a deal which respects the legitimate interests of unionism, which keeps the whole UK together and out of the EU, which respects the Act of Union and so on, and

my sense is that through much-improved constructive relations between the UK and Ireland and the EU, we may well be able to get a deal. “But I have to say to people watching

this, right now, today there is no deal on the table, there is a large gap to be bridged and we are working intensively to do just that.”