Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker has warned that eurosceptics will “implode the government” if the current policy on the protocol is not continued.
r Baker was speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday after declaring his public support for potential Tory leadership candidate Rishi Sunak.
The Minister said he believed Mr Sunak would become the next Prime Minister he planned to follow through on the current Northern Ireland Protocol policy – with the Bill currently progressing through the House of Lords allowing passage besides the agreement if the negotiations with Brussels do not progress.
During the interview, Mr Baker warned the EU that “there will be no change in policy”.
“[Rishi Sunak] will follow current policy. Again, no one should doubt that,” Baker said.
“Whoever wins this contest, the only policy that can be carried out in Northern Ireland is the one we have.
“And everyone should understand that because if, for example, Rishi (Sunak) or Penny (Mordaunt) didn’t carry out this policy, the eurosceptics would implode the government.
“There is no doubt that they have been very quiet. But the eurosceptics really care about this issue of the whole of the UK, leaving the jurisdiction of European law.”
He added that his Conservative colleagues “will not tolerate any diversion, any equivocation on this point”.
Northern Ireland is currently without a devolved government in Stormont due to concerns among unionists over the post-Brexit trade deal which includes checks on certain goods crossing the Irish Sea.
Earlier this month, the arch-Brexiteer made headlines when he apologized for what he described as his ‘fierce’ stance on negotiations with the EU and the impact on relations with the Republic of Ireland.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mr Baker said: ‘I am very sorry as relations with Ireland are not where they should be.
On Sunday he said devolved government in Stormont would not take place until the Unionists’ ‘legitimate interest’ ended the jurisdiction of EU law in Northern Ireland and admitted he had taken “big beatings” because of his apology.
“It works,” he said.
“It’s great. But I didn’t just speak with humility. I also spoke with determination, everyone must understand that the legitimate interest of Unionists is to end the jurisdiction of EU law in Northern Ireland.
“Now that’s the hardest problem we have to solve. But we won’t have devolved government in Northern Ireland until that’s done.
“It means we will not be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.
“It’s important and everyone involved needs to understand that we can offer both friendship and humility, we can offer apologies where it’s needed. But at the end of the day, we have to end the jurisdiction of European law in Northern Ireland.”
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has urged the DUP to reform power-sharing in Stormont before this week’s deadline.
He said politicians in Northern Ireland had choices to make to prevent the election. He reiterated that an election will be called if the Northern Ireland Assembly is not reformed by October 28, as it is a legal requirement.
“If six months go by without an executive reforming the Northern Ireland Assembly after previous elections, an election must be called,” Mr Heaton-Harris told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday. “So it’s actually a legal requirement to call him at one minute past midnight on October 28.”
He added: “The Democratic Unionist Party have had the opportunity to come back and it’s really important I think they do because there are so many domestic issues in Northern Ireland which would be helped by their reintegration into the executive.
“And they themselves have very talented politicians who can help solve these problems.
“So there is a choice people can make to prevent there being an election. But it has to be done by elected representatives of Northern Ireland coming back to this assembly. for Northern Ireland is expected to call an election this week.”