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House of Commons Hansard
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Leaving the EU: Talks on Restoring Devolution
03 July 2019
Volume 662
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4. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the progress of talks on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. [911627]

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5. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the progress of talks on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. [911628]

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9. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the progress of talks on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. [911633]

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10. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the progress of talks on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. [911634]

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The Northern Ireland parties have made it clear that they want to use the limited window ahead of us to make a success of the current talks process. I agree with them that restoring devolved government cannot wait. I remain determined to do what is necessary to make this talks process a success.

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The future PM held a private meeting with the leadership of the DUP yesterday. For over two years now, the Conservative party has been beholden to one political party in Northern Ireland. Does the Secretary of State seriously believe that there is no connection between this narrow and self-interested relationship between these two political parties and the continued absence of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland?

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I reject that entirely. The institutions collapsed well before the confidence and supply arrangements between the Democratic Unionist party and my party and, as the Northern Ireland Office, we are rigorously impartial. I pay tribute to the Democratic Unionist party and the attitude that it has brought to the talks. I pay tribute to all other parties in that respect.

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All of us in this House would want to see the restoration of a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland. Clearly, one of the things that is most important about that is transparency. In the interests of transparency, will the Secretary of State’s party in the months ahead be offering another Brexit bung to that lot behind us?

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The matter of transparency is very important. It has been a matter for one of our working groups, which has been working and making good progress on how we improve transparency within the institutions established under the Belfast agreement. I look forward to seeing the parties going back into government and seeing those transparency measures being enacted.

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Would it not quite simply be a constitutional outrage for the UK to leave the EU in October with Northern Ireland having been without an accountable and elected devolved Parliament for the entirety of the article 50 process? Is that not all the more reason why we cannot and must not leave in October?

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The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to see restored devolved government in Northern Ireland and that is what I am working to achieve.

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Did the Prime Minister consult the Secretary of State before appointing Lord Dunlop to conduct a review of devolution? Brexit is already driving a coach and horses through the devolution settlement on these islands, and it will not be helped if the two arms of Government do not know what the other is doing, so will the Dunlop review extend to Northern Ireland and the effects of Brexit on devolution?

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I do not comment on leaked briefings.

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While we listen to all the rhetoric and the excuses about talks not proceeding—we have heard that Brexit is one of them—surely it is in our interest, I am sure the Secretary of State will agree, that we make an even better Northern Ireland, a perfect Brexit and a frictionless border for all the people of Northern Ireland.

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I agree, and we will have a better chance of doing that if we have the devolved institutions restored. That is what we are working to do.

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As the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) is likely to have promised the Secretary of State’s position to about six or seven people, this may well be her last appearance at Northern Ireland questions. Having now spent considerable time in Northern Ireland knowing the damage that a no-deal Brexit would inflict, will she commit to voting against a no-deal Brexit if the House is given the opportunity to do so? Will she commit, as the Chancellor did yesterday, to doing everything she can to avoid no deal?

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I assure the hon. Gentleman that this will not be my last appearance at Northern Ireland questions; I will absolutely be at Northern Ireland questions for many years to come. I believe that the right way for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union as one United Kingdom is with a deal, and that is what we are working to achieve.

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With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, may I make the point to this House, which has known the murder of its own Members, that it must condemn threats to Arlene Foster? Democratic politicians are entitled to operate in security without such threats of violence.

The Secretary of State knows, because she has voted in a way to prevent it, that a hard Brexit would lead to a hard border across the island of Ireland, with the threats of terrorism that the former Chief Constable has invoked and with increased unemployment and all the difficulties that that would cause. The Secretary of State has taken a different view in the past. Will she make it clear that a no-deal Brexit would be massively damaging for the people of Northern Ireland and that she will continue to oppose that step?

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I join the hon. Gentleman in condemning threats against any politician. Those of us who are democratically elected put ourselves into public service because we believe in public service. We are all entitled, no matter our political persuasion, to have protection and not to receive death threats. I join him in condemning those death threats.

With respect to Brexit, I have been clear throughout that I want to see the United Kingdom leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. I believe that the best way to do that is through a deal that enables us to leave in an orderly fashion, protecting jobs and the economy. I have also been clear that a no-deal Brexit would be longer lasting and more acute in Northern Ireland, but I am doing everything I can to ensure that we leave with a deal.