Belfast Telegraph

Border, Causeway and golf on agenda for visiting government ministers

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay (left) with Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, at the Quinn Cement plant in Co Cavan yesterday
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay (left) with Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, at the Quinn Cement plant in Co Cavan yesterday
Mr Lidington at Royal Portrush with the Royal & Ancient’s Executive Director of Championships, Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, and the famous Claret Jug
Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington (right) at the Giant’s Causeway with Max Bryant, General Manager, and Anthony McAuley, Visitor Experience Officer

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington took time away from the wrangles of Westminster to visit Royal Portrush ahead of the Open Golf championship in July.

Mr Lidington said what happens in the Conservative leadership contest is anybody's guess but he did not appear to be interested in adding his name to those challenging Theresa May.

He said: "My job is to support the Prime Minister who is focused utterly on the commitment to fulfil what people voted for in the referendum and that is why all her energy and effort is going in to trying to get a parliamentary majority to give it back to Brexit when the implementation is introduced after the Whitsun recess.

"What happens after that we'll see, but I have to say when you have been working as closely with Number Ten as I have over the last year, the Iron Throne isn't terribly attractive.

"My focus is in supporting Theresa May in trying to deliver on Brexit and to do so in an orderly fashion that protects, jobs and living standards and protects the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"As far as other things are concerned, we'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Meanwhile Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said a no-deal scenario could be "mitigated" and was preferable to giving up on the process of leaving the EU.

Speaking on a visit to a cement works on the Irish border, he acknowledged the disruption a no-deal scenario would cause but it was better than cancelling Brexit.

Mr Barclay stressed that he was committed to getting Mrs May's deal and the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament as the best way to deliver Brexit.

But if, as the clock ticked down to October 31, the UK was faced with the choice of a no-deal Brexit or revoking Article 50 and staying in, Mr Barclay said the negative effects of leaving without an agreement could be limited.

He pinned the blame on Labour for the collapse of cross-party talks aimed at finding a consensus at Westminster.

He said: "The division in the Labour Party over the second referendum, I think that's why they've not been able to move forward."

If the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is defeated, he said the options left would be no deal or no Brexit on October 31.

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