Michael Heseltine predicts that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will be ‘massacred’ in the House of Lords
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The one-time cabinet minister and strong supporter of EU membership, now aged 89, was responding to a News Letter question at a European Movement fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, where he spoke alongside the former Treasury minister David Gauke, also a Remainer.
We asked how they, as pro European members of the Conservative and Unionist Party, felt about a part of the United Kingdom being left behind in the EU trade area, particularly given that many of the consequences of the NI Protocol were not understood in 2019.
Mr Gauke replied: “I am very uncomfortable with it and at one level I can very much understand the concerns that the unionist community feel about it but having said all that, once the United Kingdom had signed that deal it has to honour it, and although you make the point that not everyone had anticipated all the issues actually it was pretty clear there were going to be checks,there were going to be requirements that you fill in paperwork.”
He said that such a frontier was “the logic of divergence”, that there has to be a border somewhere, in the Irish Sea or on the island of Ireland, and that would be even more so if the divergence increased.
Lord Heseltine did not answer part of the question but made clear his support for the protocol and his opposition to the bill that seeks to overhaul it: “I think if our leadership, if the government is looking for a U-turn, it should pull the legislation from the House of Lords tomorrow.
“It’s going to get massacred in the House of Lords anyway.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the UK government “must not squander” the opportunity to make progress on the protocol.
He said: “The last thing the UK needs, in the middle of a fiscal crisis the Conservatives have created, is new trade barriers with the EU.
“For months, Labour has been calling for the Government to get round the negotiating table with the EU to fix the bad deal it negotiated.
“There is a window now the government must not squander. With hard work and compromise on all sides, a deal is achievable to end this damaging, self-inflicted stand-off.”