The British minister for Northern Ireland has maintained that policy on trade arrangements will not change after Brexit, despite the change of prime minister.
Regional elections will be called on Friday, Steve Baker added, unless the Democratic Unionist party could “stifle” its refusal to return to the power-sharing executive branch by then.
Speaking at an Anglo-Irish parliamentary meeting in Ireland, Baker said that “whatever prime minister the UK returns will continue our policy of reaching an agreement acceptable to all parties”.
Rishi Sunak, the frontrunner to become UK Prime Minister, said during the summer campaign for the Conservative party’s leadership that he wanted a negotiated settlement with the EU. However, he insisted on a bill before the House of Lords that would give London the power to scrap key parts of the protocol.
It was not clear whether Baker, who has given his support to Sunak, or Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, who switched to Sunak on Monday after initially backing Boris Johnson’s return, would keep their jobs.
The Democratic Unionist Party has refused to rejoin the Stormont executive and assembly until it sees sweeping changes to protocol.
But unless executive power is restored at one minute past midnight on 28 October, the UK will be required by law to call new elections in Northern Ireland.
Heaton-Harris has said he sees no room to introduce emergency legislation to change that.
Baker called on the DUP to “find it in themselves to stifle the position they’ve taken – just step into the executive, do it this week and we can avoid an election” and insisted that “the next prime minister British policy on protocol”.
But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson seemed unmoved.
“If there is a new Prime Minister, if they want to see a fully functioning Stormont, they will have to deal with protocol once and for all. Short-term solutions will do Northern Ireland a disservice,” he said in a message to party members last weekend.