In his own words: Boris Johnson on next steps for dealing with NI Protocol

Here is a transcript of the pool interview with Boris Johnson during his visit to the Thales factory in Belfast on Monday.

Q: Has anything been said today which has persuaded you to step back from the ledge of announcing legislation this week which would ditch parts of the protocol?

Prime Minister: So where we are today, we’re 10 days after a very important election here in Northern Ireland where we haven’t been able to get a government going.

And look at the situation, we’ve got massive pressures on the economy, the healthcare system needs addressing, we need a government and we need that Executive formed. And so, as is often the case in Northern Ireland, there are things that different parties want fixed, and we’ve come to try and sort some things out.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thales weapons manufacturer in Belfast

So one of the things we’re doing is making sure that on the language and on culture and on abortion we’re moving to help. And you’ll have some more about that later this week.

And of course, as you know, there’s this issue with the Northern Ireland Protocol. And here you’ve got one of the traditions, one of the communities, that does not like the way that it is operating.

And in fact, none of the parties – I spoke to all five parties just now – not one of them likes the way it’s operating. They all think it can be reformed and improved, from Sinn Fein to SDLP, DUP, all of them.

And the question is, how do you do that? And we would love this to be done in a consensual way with our friends and partners, ironing out the problems, stopping some of these barriers east-west. But to get that done, to have the insurance, we need to proceed with a legislative solution at the same time.

Q: Did you appeal personally to the DUP to form an Executive, and is that looking any more likely tonight?

Prime Minister: You bet. And I think everybody should be rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck into the government of Northern Ireland. Look at this place, it’s an amazing place. Here we are in the Thales factory, where they’re absolutely crucial to what the Ukrainians are able to do to protect themselves.

Northern Ireland business is going so well in so many ways. The province has got so much going for it. But you need leadership and you need government. So you bet I said to the DUP, in particular, we want to see you back in the Executive, we want to see you nominating, we want to see a speaker in the Assembly, of course.

Now the issue they have is that they object to the operation of the protocol. We don’t want to scrap it. But we think it can be fixed. And actually, five of the five parties I talked to today also think it needs reform.

Q: You’re threatening to tear up an international agreement which you signed less than two years ago, which could cause a trade war with our biggest trading partner at a time when we’re in a cost-of-living crisis and an actual war in Europe. (Doesn’t) seem to me like the wisest thing to do in the world, Prime Minister.

Prime Minister: No, what we’re doing is sticking up for the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. And what we’re doing is trying to protect and preserve the government of Northern Ireland.

And yes, you’re right, there’s a cost-of-living issue. But that’s certainly not being helped by extra barriers to trade, extra burdens on business that are being caused by the protocol.

And it certainly won’t be helped if we have a situation where the Executive isn’t up and running in Northern Ireland. You need the Executive, you need the Assembly.

That is what the people of Northern Ireland want us as politicians to focus on. They want us to focus on the economy, on jobs, on healthcare, and that means government’s got to get going.