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Northern Ireland Secretary and Foreign Secretary meet political leaders in Belfast

The meeting in Belfast comes as Protocol talks progress and the deadline for Executive formation approaches.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP and the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon James Cleverly MP have met NI political leaders to discuss the issues created by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In attendance were the Rt Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and Gordon Lyons MLA of the DUP, Andrew Muir MLA and Paula Bradshaw MLA of Alliance and Doug Beattie MC MLA and Robin Swann MLA of the UUP.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland highlighted the serious situation that the current governance gap is having on the people of Northern Ireland, especially in terms of the delivery of public services, and laid out the next steps in the legislation passed to manage Executive formation.

During his visit, the Foreign Secretary also met with business groups, and toured the Saintfield Garden Centre and Nursery to hear about some of the specific difficulties caused by the Protocol.

Providing an update on talks between the UK Government and the European Union, the Foreign Secretary reflected on the agreement reached earlier this week regarding the EU’s access to UK IT systems that provide live information about what goods are moving across from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

While a range of critical issues need to be resolved on the Protocol, this agreement provides a basis for further constructive discussions with the EU to come to a negotiated solution.

Commenting after the meeting, Mr Heaton-Harris said:

In conversations with NI political leaders, I stressed that while an agreement on the Protocol is incredibly important, it remains my view that the devolved institutions must return as soon as possible.

This is particularly crucial in the face of current budgetary challenges and economic pressures. The people of Northern Ireland are best when governed by their locally elected representatives, who should deliver public services at the level the public need and deserve.

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