New Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris urged Stormont party leaders to form an executive “as soon as possible” in his first Commons appearance with his new portfolio.
He told MPs that he would be speaking to each of the party leaders in Northern Ireland about the current situation.
“I know the House shares my view that Northern Ireland needs a stable, fully functioning devolved government to deliver on the issues that matter to people most.”
The DUP is blocking the formation of a devolved, power sharing government.
A Bill to override and breach the agreed Northern Ireland Protocol is making its way through the UK Parliament, it is due to be scrutinised by peers in the House of Lords.
“Workers, families and small businesses
need our help now.”
Mr Heaton-Harris said he would prefer a negotiated settlement with the European Union but insisted the UK Government is committed to progressing the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.
The European Commission has compared the bill to gun to the head.
The Northern Ireland Secretary told MPs:
“We are committed to resolving the problems in the protocol, ideally through a negotiation, but, if not, through legislation, so yes.”
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle sought assurances that the UK Government’s position on getting Stormont up and running was unchanged.
Mr Heaton-Harris replied: “We’re very clear, the protocol negotiation is between the EU and the UK, but yes the position is completely unchanged.”
He later added: “I am very keen we try and negotiate a solution with the European Union and sort out the issues of the protocol. However, we do have legislation ready, we’ve discussed it in this House and if we do not get a negotiated solution, we will legislate.”
Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland and First Minister designate Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “I will meet with Chris Heaton-Harris tomorrow and will make it clear that his first priority must be getting an executive up and running.
“Workers, families and small businesses need our help now.
“There can be no more delays.”