Government stops short of pledging action on Protocol in Queen's Speech

The Government has stopped short of pledging to take action on the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Queen's Speech.

The speech contained a commitment to "take all steps necessary" to protect Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market.

However there was an emphasis placed on talks with the EU to find a resolution.

The DUP has demanded "decisive action" from the Government over the protocol.

The post-Brexit trading arrangements have seen additional checks on goods arriving into the region from Great Britain.

Unionists have fiercely opposed this as a border in the Irish Sea.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he will not nominate ministers to a new Stormont executive until the Government takes action over the protocol.

In a phone call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday morning, Sir Jeffrey emphasised he wants to see action on the protocol.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill urged Mr Johnson that the public in Northern Ireland "can't be a pawn in the British Government's game of chicken with the EU".

The Prime Minister also spoke on Tuesday morning to Irish premier Micheal Martin, who urged against any unilateral action.

The Queen's Speech acknowledged the stalemate at Stormont, adding the "protocol needs to change".

In the speech read by the Prince of Wales in the absence of the Queen, who is suffering from mobility issues, the EU was urged to work with the UK "with new imagination and flexibility", to deliver that change.

The Government pledged to continue to talk to the EU, but said it will "not let that stand in the way of protecting peace and stability in Northern Ireland".

It was pledged to "take the steps necessary to protect all dimensions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and meet our obligations under the New Decade, New Approach Deal to protect Northern Ireland's place in the UK internal market".

Meanwhile there was also a commitment in the speech to make further regulations around access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

Abortion laws in the region were liberalised in 2019 following legislation passed by Westminster at a time when the power-sharing government in the region had collapsed.

However, while individual health trusts have been offering services on an ad hoc basis, the Department of Health has yet to centrally commission the services.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis previously announced his intention to act in the absence of movement at Stormont.

In the Queen's Speech, the Government said it intends to make further regulations to ensure that women and girls have access to safe, high-quality abortion care in Northern Ireland.