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Conservative leadership candidates speak in support of NI Protocol legislation as Tom Tugendhat calls for ‘clean slate’ on issue

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Conservative candidate Tom Tugendhat

Conservative candidate Tom Tugendhat

PA

Conservative candidate Tom Tugendhat

Conservative leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat has described the need for a “clean slate” on the Northern Ireland Protocol but confirmed he still supports legislation to override it.

The MP - who is contending to become the new Prime Minister following Boris Johnson - said he would continue with delivering the Bill which will reform the post-Brexit trading arrangements, but acknowledged there would be further negotiations in Dublin and Brussels.

Speaking on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Tugendhat said: "I think we need to deliver it [protocol Bill].

“The Northern Ireland Bill delivers leverage but that is not enough, you need a clean start in order to get the trust, in order to get this Government serving the British people across not just Great Britain but Northern Ireland too.

"I have fought for my country in combat, I have fought for my country in Parliament, and I will keep fighting for my country."

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Mr Tugendhat, who voted remain, said there was "no way back into the European Union".

He added: "What I want to do is get a clean start on these six-year-old arguments we have been having. I want to get a clean start for our country, I want to get a clean start from all of these old debates and move on, because the reality is we can look at the past if you like, but the future for this country is amazing."

Mr Tugendhat also told BBC NI’s Sunday Politics programme he has spent “many years” working alongside the Irish Government and said one of his “closest friends” is Doug Beattie.

“As somebody whose great grandparents came from Limerick, I can tell you I would be a leader for the whole community,” he added.

“As we know very well, north/south, east/west, whatever way you are trading it needs to work and we need to make sure Northern Ireland remains the best place to do business.”

It comes as other potential candidates have also laid out their position on the protocol legislation.

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told LBC he would also continue with the protocol legislation.

"The Northern Ireland Protocol has to change and that's why I supported this Bill,” Mr Hunt said.

"I hope that with somebody who wasn't Boris Johnson in No 10 the mood music of our relations with the EU would change and we could legally negotiate some proper changes to the protocol.

"I think we have to be very clear with the EU that no British prime minister could allow a situation where we don't have an internal market, where businesses from England can export freely to businesses in Northern Ireland."

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said it is "really important" the next Conservative Party leader backs the benefits of Brexit.

Asked if the next leader should have supported leaving the European Union from the outset, the Brexit opportunities minister told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "I think it's very important.

"Brexit has been done legally but there is a great deal of work to do to get the benefits of Brexit to make the UK a less regulated free market that isn't in lockstep with the European Union.

"Part of that is delivering on the Northern Ireland Protocol and I think the Bill before Parliament at the moment is a very good way of doing that.

"There needs to be somebody who will support that.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald told BBC NI that the leadership battle was a chance for the Tory party to “reset its own attitude and approach to Ireland, certainly the Good Friday Agreement”.

When asked about a report in The Times newspaper that new Secretary of State Shailesh Vara once asked an official if he “needed a passport to go to Derry”, Ms McDonald replied she “longed for the day” Northern Ireland no longer needed a UK minister.

“Who they [Conservative Party] choose of their number is a matter entirely for themselves. They need to be clear Ireland will not be the collateral damage in their antics,” she said.

“I have to confess I don’t know him [Shailesh Vara]. I long for the day there is no Secretary of State for the North.”


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