DUP urges Chris Heaton-Harris to use remaining time in office to deliver for Northern Ireland on the NI Protocol, public sector funding and immigration

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The DUP has urged Chris Heaton-Harris to use his remaining time in office to deliver for Northern Ireland on the NI Protocol, public sector funding and immigration.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson was speaking after NI Secretary of State Mr Heaton-Harris announced he will not stand at the next general election.

The Tory MP said on X it had been an “honour and a privilege to serve” and passed on his thanks to his constituents in Daventry.

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He also thanked Rishi Sunak as well as former prime ministers Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

He added that he would be continuing to campaign for the Conservatives as the “only party that has and can deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom”.

Mr Heaton-Harris was first elected as an MP in 2010. A fierce Eurosceptic, he was appointed Tory chief whip in 2022 by Mr Johnson.

Later that year, Liz Truss appointed him as secretary of state for Northern Ireland, a role he retained when Mr Sunak became prime minister.

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At the time the Stormont power-sharing institutions had collapsed due to a DUP protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements, and much of his time in Northern Ireland was spent trying to restore the assembly.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who has announced he will not be standing at the next general election, said he would be continuing to campaign for the Conservatives as the 'only party that has and can deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom'Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who has announced he will not be standing at the next general election, said he would be continuing to campaign for the Conservatives as the 'only party that has and can deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom'
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who has announced he will not be standing at the next general election, said he would be continuing to campaign for the Conservatives as the 'only party that has and can deliver for the whole of the United Kingdom'

During that time, he passed a budget to keep Stormont departments working in the absence of minsters and was closely associated with the passing of the government’s controversial Troubles legacy bill.

In his letter to Mr Sunak, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Working with you I helped negotiate and deliver the Windsor Framework, which both solved many of the major practical issues created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, put in place as we left the EU, and helped reset our countries’ relationship with our European neighbours.

“Then, after long and detailed negotiations within Northern Ireland, we produced the Command Paper Safeguarding the Union which resulted in the return of Stormont and devolved government to serve the people of Northern Ireland.

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“I strongly believe the conditions now exist for Northern Ireland to thrive, with privileged access for manufactured goods into the EU single market, while being an integral part of our UK internal market and being able to benefit from the international trade deals we negotiate; it finds itself in a remarkable favourable position – and as Northern Ireland thrives, our Union will strengthen.”

Mr Heaton-Harris added: “I know we are not far from a general election, an election in which I will do everything I can to see you returned as prime minister, I would be honoured if you allowed me to continue as secretary of state for Northern Ireland until that time.

“There are still a number of pieces of unfinished business I wish to complete and I love the people, place and job, but obviously would understand if you feel it best to replace me.”

DUP leader Gavin Robinson MP wished Mr Heaton-Harris well, but urged him to use his remaining time to ensure the government delivers on pledges made to NI.

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“I trust he will remain in post until the mandate ends as there is delivery required from the government. NI needs sustainable funding which can enable reform of public services and ensure public sector workers are properly paid for their work.

“There are outstanding commitments within the ‘Safeguarding The Union’ command paper and the secretary of state must channel his efforts to ensure there is faithful delivery for the people of Northern Ireland.

“During those negotiations, we repeatedly told the government we were unconvinced by their legislation on illegal immigration. We were proven right by the courts. Northern Ireland will not be allowed to become a magnet for illegal migrants.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie said: “I have not always agreed with Chris and on many occasions we have clashed on issues affecting Northern Ireland and it people, particularly around Brexit, the Windsor Framework and the nature of the one-sided negotiations with the DUP on the ‘Safeguarding the Union’ deal.

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“However, I do know that he has put in the hours, done what he thinks is right for Northern Ireland and genuinely wants this part of the UK to succeed. To that end, I wish him well for the remaining time as the secretary of state for Northern Ireland and MP for Daventry.

"I hope he and his family can enjoy life outside of politics in the years to come.”

TUV leader Jim Allister was more scathing.

“For all his Brexiteer credentials, Chris Heaton-Harris will be remembered as a betrayer of the Union because he cemented the Union-dismantling protocol, the tinkering Windsor Framework and the con job of what is laughingly called ‘Safeguarding the Union’.

“He has left NI subject to an Irish Sea border, EU law and under the EU’s sovereignty-grabbing customs code, which decrees GB a foreign country. The most avid Remainer could not have done worse.”

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