Tories fear Irish unity referendum as ‘greater risk’ than second Scottish independence vote

A Tory MP believes there will be a vote on Irish unification before a second referendum on Scotland’s independence.

Chris Skidmore claimed he doesn’t “fear” about Scotland breaking away from the United Kingdom but believes there is a “greater risk” of Northern Ireland voting to become part of the Republic of Ireland.

Skidmore was speaking on the BBC ‘s Politics Live programme ahead of Lord Frost’s speech where he will demand changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol amid a stand-off with the EU over the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

In a speech to the diplomatic community in Lisbon later today, the Brexit minister will warn the protocol cannot survive without fundamental reform to governance arrangements.

But even before he delivered his address, he was accused by the Irish Government of creating a “red line” barrier to progress in resolving the dispute over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Chris Skidmore thinks there will be a vote in Northern Ireland first
Chris Skidmore thinks there will be a vote in Northern Ireland first

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the peer was setting demands he knew the EU could not move on and questioned whether the UK really wanted to agree a way forward.

Skidmore was asked his views on the protocol, he replied: “What I’m more concerned about is where this goes with the overall outcome politically in the longer term.

“I no longer fear the Scottish independence referendum is going to be the first – I worry more that there will be a referendum on creating a single island of Ireland.

“I think that’s probably the greater risk now from these disagreements continuing.”

Lord Frost’s speech comes a day before the EU is due to produce its plans to resolve issues with the protocol, which has led to the creation of economic barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.

He is expected to argue that Brussels has been too quick to dismiss the row over the ECJ as a “side issue”.

The minister will say the court prevented the UK from implementing “very sensitive” arrangements in the protocol in a “reasonable way”, creating a “deep imbalance” in the way it operates.

The protocol is intended to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic stays open while protecting the single market, which Northern Ireland remains a part of.

However the need for checks on goods crossing to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK has led to growing tensions both within Northern Ireland and between London and Brussels.

The EU plan is likely to include a proposal that chilled meats can continue crossing the Irish Sea after the end of current grace periods, in a move to alleviate the so-called sausage wars.

However Lord Frost is expected to argue the changes need to go much further if there is to be a sustainable solution.

Ahead of his speech, Downing Street said the UK had signed up to the protocol “good faith” but the way it was being operated by the EU could not continue.

“It was formed in the spirit of compromise in challenging circumstances,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“Since then we have seen how the EU is inclined to operate the governance arrangements, issuing infraction proceedings against the UK at the first sign of disagreement.

“These arrangements aren’t sustainable. We need to find a new way of resolving issues that arise between us using mechanisms normal in other international treaties.

“It is unheard of for bilateral agreements being policed by the courts of one of the parties.”

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