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Boris Johnson arriving at Stormont House in Belfast Boris Johnson arriving at Stormont House in Belfast 

British PM meets political leaders in Northern Ireland

Britain’s new prime minister Boris Johnson is in Northern Ireland meeting leaders of the five main political parties there in a bid to help efforts to restore the Belfast government. Brexit was expected to be on the agenda.

By Lydia O’Kane

For Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million people two issues loom large: restoring the collapsed Belfast government, and finding a solution for the Irish border after the UK leaves the EU.

On Wednesday, Britain’s new prime minister Boris Johnson was in Northern Ireland meeting leaders of the five main political parties in a bid to help efforts to restore the Belfast government.

Northern Ireland Assembly    

Considering that Northern Ireland has been without a functioning assembly for two and a half years due to a botched green-energy project, this is something of a challenge.

But speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said that his prime focus was to get the Belfast government up and running again.

"It's great to be here in Northern Ireland and clearly the people of Northern Ireland have been without a government, without Stormont for two years and six months so my prime focus this morning is to do everything I can to help that get up and running again."

Listen to the report

Brexit and the NI Backstop

Northern Ireland is vital to securing the UK’s exit from the European Union. The backstop, as it’s known, is the insurance policy to guarantee an open border between the North and the Irish Republic.

Both Britain and the EU have promised there will be no hard border after Brexit, but the problem is they disagree on how to avoid it.

Speaking to the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar by phone on Tuesday, Johnson said the backstop must by "abolished from any Brexit deal.

Mr Varadkar has invited the British Prime Minister to visit Dublin to discuss Brexit, as the Irish government and EU say the backstop must remain as part of the overall withdrawal deal.

In an interview with an Irish newspaper on Wednesday, Leo Varadkar said that "Ireland isn't going to be bullied on this issue and as a government and as a country”, he added, “I think we are going to stick by our position".

31 July 2019, 14:53