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Liz Truss during a hustings event in Perth, Scotland, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister. PA/Jane Barlow
UK hustings

Tory leadership hopefuls Truss and Sunak take united stand on Protocol during Belfast trip

The Tory leadership contenders are to make their pitch to Conservative members in Belfast today.

LAST UPDATE | Aug 17th 2022, 1:59 PM

LIZ TRUSS HAS claimed she would get Sinn Féin and the DUP into government together at Stormont if she is made the next British prime minister.

The Tory leadership frontrunner said she would work to fix the NI Protocol and restore power sharing in Stormont, which has been in flux since February.

Truss has also come in for criticism following the leaking of audio in which she claimed that British workers lacked “graft” and were part of a “fundamental issue” in the country’s culture.

She and rival Rishi Sunak are travelling to Belfast today for another leadership hustings with Conservative members, where they will be quizzed further on the Protocol during the visit.

The DUP withdrew its first minister from the governing executive last February in protest over the UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements.

Unionists have expressed concern over the Protocol creating what they regard as a border in the Irish Sea.

At today’s hustings Truss said that she would not support Northern Ireland having the power to ban abortion.

A member of the audience claimed Westminster had “undemocratically and unconstitutionally imposed abortion on Northern Ireland” and asked whether she would abolish abortion or let the people decide if she became prime minister.

Truss was applauded as she replied: “I’m afraid I don’t agree with you.

“We are a United Kingdom and we need all of our laws to apply right across the United Kingdom. That is what being a union is.”

On the Northern Ireland Protocol, Sunak told BBC Radio Ulster:

“I think actually both Liz and I are supporting the same Bill that is in Parliament, that we both support and so in that sense there isn’t a difference between us.

“My plan is the same as Liz’s plan, which is to push on and pass the Bill that is in Parliament, and I’m confident that that’s the right way to resolve the situation, and people should be in no doubt that under my premiership that Bill would continue to make its way through Parliament and become law.”

Yesterday evening, they were both challenged by Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie to set out their positions on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

He said the post-Brexit arrangements “need to be dealt with once and for all because it continues to damage the Belfast Agreement and places a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”.

And as they faced questions from Scottish Tories in Perth, Truss was asked whether she could get nationalist and unionist parties together to restore the devolved executive.

“The answer is yes,” she replied.

“But we do need to resolve the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, because at the moment what the Protocol is causing is, it is causing a feeling of unfairness between the two communities in Northern Ireland because it is very hard.

“I know there are Scottish businesses that have stopped sending goods to Northern Ireland because of the bureaucracy and the paperwork.”

Truss stressed the need to reduce checks on goods staying in the UK and to “make sure that the people of Northern Ireland are able to benefit from the same tax rates as the people of Great Britain”.

She also did not rule out making Sunak a minister in her cabinet if she is made prime minister, insisting she would recruit “all the best talent from right across the Conservative Party”.

The pair are also set to undertake separate visits in Belfast.

They will address Conservative Party members in the North who will cast their vote to select the next leader, who is set to be announced on 5 September.

There are estimated to be around 600 Conservative Party members in Northern Ireland.

The party currently has no elected representatives in the region.

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