Baker calls on DUP to enter Stormont and avoid election that would ‘waste time and money’

Party urged to ‘count on us’ to negotiate and achieve a deal ‘that works for us all’

Steve Baker has called on the DUP to “do the right thing” and allow a new Stormont executive to be formed this week. The British minister of state for Northern Ireland said the party should “find it within themselves to choke down the position they have taken” to ensure the executive can sit, “and do it this week [so] we can avoid an election which it is true would waste time and money which would be better spent elsewhere”.

Mr Baker, who was addressing politicians from across the UK and Ireland at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly‘s 62nd plenary session in Co Cavan, joked that it was his first time to attend that assembly “and let me just say I hope it is not the last. You will understand what I mean.”

In his address to the meeting Taoiseach Micheál Martin also pleaded with the DUP to take its seats in the Northern Ireland assembly. “Failure to do so in my opinion is a negation of democracy,” said Mr Martin. “The people have voted and people expected their elected representatives to take their seats in the assembly, and the executive to deal with the very serious issues that are confronting us all at this very difficult time across Europe.”

Mr Baker, a former chair of the European Research Group (ERG) who recently apologised to Ireland and Brussels for the way he and some of his colleagues behaved in relation to negotiations about Brexit during the past six years, repeatedly urged the DUP to change its position.


He warned that if an election is called in Northern Ireland the make-up of the assembly would likely remain much the same “and I think particularly the unionists should reflect it might be quite a good outcome for Sinn Féin”.

Mr Baker added: “I approach that possibility with considerable trepidation and humility but the answer to it, I am afraid, is for the DUP to choose to accept that this government, indeed the next prime minister, will retain the UK’s policy on the protocol, and to get back into the institutions.”

He called on the party to “count on us” to negotiate and achieve a deal “that works for us all”.

The minister said a lot of effort had gone into improving relations between the UK and Ireland, “particularly under the lens of the Northern Ireland protocol”.

He said he wanted to restate “our conviction that the protocol can and should be improved” to better reflect “the delicate but crucial balances at the heart of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement”.

Mr Baker said while the UK government was “resolutely committed” to the agreement, “the point I want everyone to understand is that it is going to be difficult to see how [United States] president [Joe] Biden, how figures from across the EU, will be coming to the island of Ireland to rejoice over that agreement if we fail to sort out the protocol”.

Meanwhile, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly committee has found that delays in political decision-making have made it more challenging for businesses to prepare for the future and adapt to the post-Brexit trading environment.

The committee’s report, unveiled in Co Cavan on Monday, recommended that the UK, Irish Government and EU work together to ensure that trade friction between the UK and Ireland is minimised.

The report suggests that Brexit and the protocol may be affecting the quantity of goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. It cited Consumer Council for Northern Ireland findings that 289 British retailers suspended delivery to Northern Ireland at some point in 2021, “although many have now resumed this service”.

The council found that two-thirds of consumers surveyed had observed reduced availability of products in supermarkets, and a similar number had encountered companies who would no longer deliver to Northern Ireland when shopping online.